Welcome to Part 3 of a 4 part series on getting your organization acclimated to and actively involved in social media. In earlier posts, we talked about setting the stage for social media participation, and writing an effective RFP. This time around, we’re going to examine another key aspect of intentional, strategic social media participation: working with partners and vendors.

image courtesy Paleontour on FlickrWhether it’s an agency providing consulting or a deeper level of implementation, a freelance blogger providing content, or a tech firm offering monitoring or deployment solutions, outsourcing will probably be an element of your social media effort.

After selecting the best-fit vendors, you need to empower them to work effectively for your organization, without creating unnecessary negative exposure potential (you know, that scary, “brand-terrorist” stuff that freaks the C-levels out about social media).

In addition to that, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your social media partners, your PR firm, your agency partners, and your internal marketing folks are all clear on their respective roles and responsibilities.

To change things up a little from the previous entries in this series, instead of spelling out what you need to do, we’re going to tell you what not to do.

(Note: I was originally going to do this in limerick form, but since I couldn’t find enough words that rhymed with “partners,” and haiku just didn’t feel right, I’m afraid bullets will have to suffice.)

When it comes to working with social media vendors and partners, don’t:

  • Assume that because you’re using the same words, you’re on the same page. To one person or organization, “social media marketing” means doing banner ads or sponsored posts on blogs, to another it’s a widget or promotion engine, and to another it’s getting a piece of linkbait to the front page of a social news site like Digg—and you may mean none of those things. As your organization’s personal social media explorer, you need to know each of your vendors’ philosophies and approach to social media, well enough to explain it to other partners if necessary.
  • Be vague about specific roles and responsibilities in relation to social media among your various marketing service providers. As complicated as cross-channel integrated marketing already is, don’t give your agency partners the additional handicap of unclear guidance when it comes to who is responsible for what when it comes to social media. The most likely outcomes are that two or more partners will inadvertently step on each others’ toes trying to cover the same ground, or that nobody will step up for fear of doing just that.
  • Hire a partner or consultant for their expertise in social media, and then fail to listen to their advice. Okay, this last one is a little personal, but mostly it’s just good common sense. If I hear one complaint more often than another from other folks who are doing social media work, it’s that after taking the time to immerse themselves in social media and develop a depth of understanding for the space, and then working hard during pitch and proposal to convey that expertise to the client, when the rubber meets the road, their recommendations either never get implemented, or don’t get implemented properly. Yes, there will sometimes be technical, legal or other considerations to take into account, and yes, you’re the guardian of your brand, but ultimately if you’re going to hold the partner responsible for the success or failure of your social media participation, you need to sufficiently empower them to actually bring home the results you’re asking for.

Frankly, if you can avoid these three major Don’ts, you’ll probably be in pretty good shape when it comes to working with vendors and partners in social media.

Jason will be back this week, all revved up and recharged from his vacation last week. I’ll be back with you next Monday to wrap up this series with part 4: Determining Success or Failure. It’ll touch on a particular hot potato in social media marketing discussion: metrics. See you then.

image courtesy Paleontour on Flickr

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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://blog.techrigy.com Martin Edic

    I’d add that as a brand manager to succeed in social marketing you need to start with a really good keyword phrase set that includes brands, competitors, people, products, etc., and is quite specific. This makes a big difference not only in discovery but also in helping team members understand how the process works and what their role is. If everyone knows the keywords then you can ensure that they understand the conversation in context and respond appropriately in context (double emphasis on ‘in context!).

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com KatFrench

    Martin: Interesting. So you’re recommending creating something like a “relevant conversation tag cloud” and disseminating it to all vendors, partners and internal staff? I could see where something like that could be of value.

    Along similar lines, I’d also recommend having some “standard position” copy for frequently-discussed hot topics in your industry. NOT to cut and paste into social media discussions, but just as a guide so everyone knows what the official brand stance is on a topic.

    For example, a person could comment that “XYZ Company’s usual take on that is [paraphrase of standard position], but my own personal opinion is ________.”

    I don’t think anyone believes you ought to be spouting “canned brand messaging” on social sites, but on the other hand, you don’t sound like an empowered representative of an organization if you don’t appear to have at least a clear idea what their position is on their own industry hot topics.

  • http://www.rocsearch.com Pragya Narang

    RocSearch, the UK-based research & analytics firm has recently released a research study on ‘Leveraging Social Media for Brands’. The study showcases the social media eco-system, its drivers & imperatives while detailing cases of brand successes and failures attempting to harness the power of this medium. For a complementary copy of the study, visit http://www.rocsearch.com/social-media.asp.

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