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Integrating Social Media into a Web Content Strategy

I recently came across an excellent article for integrating social media into a web content strategy. If you are someone who is responsible for building the web strategy for a client or for your company, this article contains some fantastic thoughts as well as tips. I’ve highlighted some of the information here, but for the full article as well as working examples, you should read it in its entirety on Digital Web Magazine.

Whether you’re an employee or a consultant, it sometimes falls to you to drag an organization into the 21st century—and that often means convincing a company to adopt social media. Someone might even be asking you about some new web tool their son or daughter is using.

Outside of the tech industry, skepticism and fear are the norm when it comes to social media. But it is simply about finding the best way to communicate with an audience. Social media consists of the same content already in use: text, audio, images, and video. The difference lies in its ability to open up new channels of communication.

Rather than getting bogging down in discussions about the uses of Twitter, Flickr, StumbleUpon et al, start by explaining social media with a simple analogy. Most individuals or organizations have an office or home base, their offline equivalent of their website. Ask them if they make all their customers, partners, and employees call or visit their home office in order to communicate. The answer will likely be no—they go out into the world to communicate; to conferences, meetings, events, and so on. That is the equivalent of social media—using social media means going where people are in order to connect and communicate.

Social Media is a Vital Part of Online Communication

Instead of starting the social media discussion on the tools, focus on the communication needs of your client or company first. Remind your client or company that they can’t control or monitor all the conversations about them, but social media helps capture some of it so that appropriate responses can be crafted.

Any individual or organization that sells products or offers services should value open communication as a goal. If your client or company does not have an existing communications plan, or even a mission statement that includes nods to openness or transparency, a social media strategy might be a good starting point for developing one.

Getting started: Audit Your Existing Content

The best way to start integrating social media within existing web content is to audit the existing uses of text, audio, images, and video.

  1. Focus on the pages that are updated often or that would benefit from feedback or two-way interaction.
  2. Talk to people who give presentations or who answer the phones. Note as much as you can about the social aspects of your client’s communications, and think about ways that social media could help continue those conversations and capture knowledge.
  3. Once you’ve gathered your audit of text, audio, images, and video, determine what the objectives are for each of those uses. Again, keep it simple. A sentence or two should suffice for each case.
  4. Take a realistic look at how well the current tools are meeting those objectives. Refer back to your notes on existing conversations and determine the benefit from retaining the information.
  5. Make sure that each top-level page offers specific value and is tied to a real communication goal.

Doing the Work: Tools, Mules, and Rules

Now that you’ve researched the objectives and tactics of the existing content:

  1. Identify the types of social media tools that might better meet the goals for each type of content, listing the broad category of tools that would better serve your client’s or company’s needs.
  2. Document your reasons for choosing a specific tool, in case of any changes to that tool down the road.
  3. Determine how social media will fit into the current workload of your client or company, and identify the person who will be responsible for managing them.
  4. Highlight the rewards of social media so that your client or company becomes more accepting of the behavioral change and initial learning curve.
  5. Find out who is producing content that could benefit from the use of social media and show the benefit of using social media.
  6. Outline the rules for social media and emphasize that trust is a major factor in social media
  7. Be consistent with current media and identity.

As always, keep it simple

Incorporating social media into your client or company’s existing content strategy does not have to be a painful process. It’s a simple way to tackle three problems at once: Shifting conversations to a different medium; allowing for easier updating of content; and reaching a wider audience. Don’t tell people about the latest micro-blogging, content-aggregation widget. Instead, show them how they could be communicating more efficiently and how it ties into their existing content. Social media can drive static web content to new destinations, as long as you provide the roadmap.

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