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The 5 things a senior manager really needs to know about social media...

Senior managers and department directors don’t have the time to wade through a constant flood of information about how to use social media. Especially when so much social media hype and information is focused on major brands or on “viral” examples that have little to do with practical applications. 

So, if you are a time starved execuitive, here is a short, prioritized list of the 5 most important social media concepts you need to know with links to more in-depth resources.  

Return on Investment - ROI 

The ability to define, measure and drive social media results is essential. As a manager, you need to know if the time your team is spending on social media is worth the effort. Here are a few steps to managing your social media ROI:


  • Define, in advance, what you want social media to do for your organization, identifying clearly measurable objectives; i.e., more members, more customers, more revenue.


  • Measure individual communication campaigns and social media channels. Just like you should be measuring email open and click-through rates, individual social media messages can, and should, be measured to know which messages are working. 


  • Understand your costs. Half of the ROI calculation lies in understanding the full cost of your social media efforts. Although many social media tools and platforms are free, your staff’s time is not. Do you know what it is costing you to manage social media in your organization?


  • Allocate social media related revenue. This should include an allocation for all incremental revenue that is the result of your social media campaigns and can include things like; higher retention and renewal rates, event registrations, product sales and online education that has been a direct result of your social media campaigns. (See point b. on Measurement.)


The calculation of ROI itself is pretty straight forward. What is difficult is to have the discipline to consistently measure and report social media ROI so that intelligent management decisions can be made based on what is working.  


Additional Resources: An example of how to calculate social media ROI and a sample report for the CEO:  “Memo to the CEO: What’s our social media ROI?” 


Should I or shouldn’t I?

There is increasing pressure on all organizations and their leaders today for greater transparency and public access. This includes pressure on leadership to be available on social media channels. 


As a senior manager, there is a fundamental decision to be made; 

How social should I be? Should I have a prominent social media public persona, or not? 

There are two perspectives needed to answer this question;

  • What is right and appropriate for your organization?

Does the culture and “brand” of your organization support having managers with a visible, active and public social media profile? Would your Board of Directors be comfortable with senior staff having a strong social media following, or would they feel that it is not appropriate, for the organization?


  • What is right and appropriate for you personally?

Are you personally comfortable with using social media and communicating in this way? How would you feel if your Board of Directors expected you, as part of the management team, to maintain a prominent social media presence? Would you embrace it or would you feel uncomfortable in that role?


On a personal level, you can decide if you want to use social media, or not. However, as a senior executive or director, your organization may have different expectations. What is important is that there is alignment between what you as an individual and what your organization both expect from a social media perspective. 



Social Media Legal Risk Management  

The use of social media brings with it a raft of potential legal risk management issues. As part of the managfement team, it is in your personal and professional interests to make sure these issues are managed properly.


Social media legal risk management needs to be part of your plan from the start, involving your legal team and advisors in order to protect you and your organization. 

The list of social media legal risks and intellectual property management issues that need attention is considerable:

  • Employment 
  • Privacy 
  • Copyright 
  • Intellectual Property 
  • Anti-trust 
  • Defamation 
  • Marketing 
  • Terms of Use 
  • Trade secrets 
  • User generated content (UGC) 

Your social media strategy and plans need to include appropriate social media use policies, in part to support the implementation of your strategy, in part to protect you and your organization from potential legal liabilities.


Additional Resources: More than 1,000 in-house legal counsel and experts share information on SOCIALEX - The Social Media Legal Risk Management group on LinkedIn. Established for legal professionals to stay current on social media legal issues, feel free to have your in-house counsel or legal advisors join and stay connected with leaders in the social media legal community.  

In addition, a short article on HR related social media legal risks by Cynthia Gibson esq. gives a quick checklist for your HR team. 


Your professional network -                  Build it before you need it

Whether seeking advice, sharing challenges or when you are looking for your next position, nothing can take the place of a strong professional network. However, the time to build it is before you need it.

Today, LinkedIn is the premiere platform for professionals to build their network. Even if you are not a social media fanatic, understanding how to use LinkedIn is a must have skill for modern executives.

Although a basic LinkedIn account is free, if you are going to use the tool seriously, it pays to have a “premium” account, providing greater access to new contacts. A premium account allows you to send “InMail” communications to qualified contacts and build your network with people that can make a difference. 

Using LinkedIn’s advanced search function, you can expand your professional network beyond the people you already know to experts and colleagues that share a similar profile or areas of interest. 

It is important to invest time in building your network so that it is there when you need it.  


Additional Resources: Learn how to use the many applications of LinkedIn. It is so much more than just an online resume and discussion groups. It is a way to be connected with fellow executives, to grow your organization and to build a strong professional network. 


A professional grade strategy   

Social media is maturing and the time for experimentation has passed. It is not a question of “if” but "how" to use social media professionally and effectively. That requires a strategy and a business plan.


Most organizations have taken a “ready, shoot, aim” approach to social media by starting Facebook pages and Twitter accounts before really understanding if they are effective or how to measure results. 

A professional social media strategy needs to be built on a solid foundation, starting with defining what you expect social media to do for your organization;

  • Set your organization goals for social media
  • Define how you are going to measure and calculate ROI
  • Identify and profile your audience segments and target groups
  • Craft your key messages and themes
  • Build your Intellectual Property and content development strategy
  • Select which technology tools and applications will be used
  • Implementation and measurement guidelines, including social media use policies and legal review

A professional social media strategy, properly deployed, will help you to reach your personal and organizational objectives while ensuring that staff resources are not wasted on interesting but non-productive social media efforts. 


Additional Resources: Learn what belongs in your social media strategy, and why many social media projects fail. Share the SOCIALSTRAT site with your team for free access to original research reports, white papers and online community management guidelines. 

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