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Proof

Making a business case for investment in social media is straightforward. It’s best practice public relations.

Should my organisation invest in social media?

It’s a question marketing and public relations practitioners are frequently asked by organisations looking to make a business case for investment in digital and social media.

There isn’t a straightforward yes or no answer. Proving a case for social media requires research and investigation.

Good social media best practice, like good public relations best practice, starts with listening and planning. Here’s the process that I use.

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Media

Investigate the media consumption in your market among your stakeholders. This will be informed by your sector and country.

If your organisation’s primary stakeholders are consumers it will be very broad and typically only constrained by geography. Business organisations will be niche and may be more easily identifiable.

There are numerous data sources to help you with this task, often available for free or low cost.

In the UK, Audit Bureau of Circulation, OFCOM, and the Office for National Statistics publish media consumption information. Ad planning tools provided by platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter will also help.

Organisations such as GlobalWebIndex, SocialBakers and YouGov publish commercial media consumption data.

Content

You’ll likely discover a shift in the last decade or so, from traditional forms of media to new forms of branded, owned and social media.

You need to explore media through the mindset of a stakeholder. That may be an employee, citizen, customer, or shareholder.

Use the search functionality of each media to explore content and conversations relevant to your organisation, brands, markets, products, services and people.

Google will give you a head start on traditional media. Use the search function of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for social media. YouTube will surface video content.

If budget allows use a social media listening tool such as Brandwatch or Sysomos, to explore the public conversations taking place on social areas of the web.

Next explore competitive organisations. What content are they publishing, and what are the conversations taking place?

Influencers

As media has fragmented from print, to online and social media, influencers have emerged on every media, in every market.

Our opportunity is to work with these individuals to engage with their network, in the way we have traditionally with journalists.

The challenge for public relations is that increasingly influencers charge to engage with brands to co-create content. Benchmarks are limited and governance is a work in progress.

Keyword and hashtag search on social networks will help discover the key influencers around an organisation, topic or market.

To truly understand the influencer landscape for your organisation you need to use a tool such as Bluenod or Traackr. This will help you understand the reach, resonance and engagement of individuals with your network.

Planning

Collate the data from the media, content and influencer searches that you’ve undertaken.

Has this data any value to your organisation, either to inform business planning, or as a means of building relationships?

You may decide to limit your approach to listening if your stakeholders aren’t using social media and it has no role in your market.

Alternatively you may have identified content, conversations and influencers with whom you want to engage. If that’s the case, you need to build a plan.

Finally social media makes a contribution to search, and provides an owned two-way channel for communication in the event of a crisis. These may also good reasons for investing in social media.

If you’d like me to help your organisation think through these issues please get in touch.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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