Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
January 6, 2010

Trolling for Social Media Strategy

(Pre-Conference Session) Build Winning Integrated Social Media Campaigns: Look at Real-world Case Studies With Applicable Strategies
Presented by Kami Watson Huyse

Social media can be a scary place. There are “trolls” out there, the kind of folks that like to stir up trouble online, and they’re not living under bridges. They’re on Twitter and Facebook, and they’re blogging about your organization.

But the online space is also ripe with opportunity if you’re prepared.

In the world of social media, public relations professionals have been recast as the ombudsmen for our organizations. We must represent the voice of our publics inside of the company and become advocates for the community, customers and fans of the brand.

To fully embrace this role, we must focus on the communications strategy behind the tactics, and build our organizations up internally just as we build our Facebook pages, Twitter profiles and corporate blogs externally.

The importance of strategy, versus just “starting a Facebook page,” cannot be oversold. In order to “follow your community” wherever it may go, as Kami said in her presentation, you need a strategy that encompasses all of the social networks, present and future.

A solid strategy ties your online presence together and allows you to move quickly into new tools and tactics when they emerge online because your overall plan still applies.

Within your own organization, social media also requires a more nimble team that can act instantly when a crisis appears. You should identify members of your organization who would make great online ambassadors and assemble a cross-departmental group who understands the space to handle crisis situations.

In an emerging field like social media, it’s sometimes difficult to get buy-in from all of the gatekeepers within your organization. Even a well-researched strategy and crisis communications team may not be enough to convince stakeholders that it’s a worthwhile effort.

But you can pick your battles. Start with listening and monitoring the conversations online while documenting where a blog, a YouTube video, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page might have allowed you to respond to a crisis, reach out to an unsatisfied customer or get your message out ahead of a negative media mention.

With these concrete examples, specific to your organization, stakeholders will see the value of pushing forward with a social media strategy. Documenting these opportunities and winning the small battles will eventually win the war.

That’s a good thing, too. A world ruled by trolls could get pretty ugly.

Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck MediaBy Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck Media, a public relations technology provider and social media practice specializing in online newsrooms with clients including Ford, The New York Times, Southwest Airlines and Baylor Health Care System. Connect with Jacob on LinkedIn and on Twitter @jacobsloan.

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