Monday, May 4, 2009

The Goodness of Social Media Portals

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we know we’re on a good path if 90 days into a social media campaign the client is happily frustrated.

The giddiness comes from the traction that program has gained with our target audiences. We’ve established an editorial strategy, our readership and engagement is expanding, search engine optimization (SEO) is enhanced, and a lead generation initiative is in the works.

Why the despair?

Internal audiences typically take note as momentum builds with a corporate social media program. It generates excitement for the potential of Web 2.0 tools and technologies, which then leads to a wave of unsupervised adoption across the organization. LinkedIn and Facebook profiles are updated. Twitter accounts spring up. Personal blogs take shape.

In a recent post entitled “Three Phases of Social Media Maturation” I refer to this period as “Bridging to Pervasive.” It is very much a positive as an understanding of the value of social media becomes ingrained in an organization’s psyche. Yet, it does present challenges for the corporate marketer.

For starters, there is the issue of consistency in messaging. This is a basic tenet of effective branding – every touch a key stakeholder has with the company should be in-step with an overall positioning strategy. The more tweets, updates, blog posts and comments in social networks from a diverse set of employees across the company the greater the chance for fragmentation of the brand.

A second challenge for the corporate marketer is policing the inadvertent disclosure of company sensitive information to participants in online communities. This is of particular concern for publicly-traded companies, as well as organizations in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare or financial services.

One approach to address these challenges without stunting Web 2.0 enthusiasm is for corporate marketing to create a social media portal to serve an entry point to a company’s online engagement. Employees retain a certain amount of freedom about how they participate in social networks and they realize increased readership from the cross-promotion of content with their colleagues.

For corporate marketers, a social media portal brings structure and consistency to the program, while helping them establish and maintain content parameters.

Regional accounting firm Cherry Bekaert & Holland has followed this path with its “Economic Recovery Resource Center." Developed for wealthy individuals and companies of all sizes, this social media portal combines third party content with a mix of blogs from the accounting firm’s subject matter experts. The content is timely and relevant, and, I suspect, aligned with a SEO strategy.

Kudos to the folks at Cherry Bekaert. They are fully engaged in social media while marketing maintains an appropriate level of management and control.

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