What Happens When Your Social Media Star Leaves?

Earlier this week I spoke at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association annual convention. More than 800 financial folks attended, and I had the pleasure to lead a panel on social networking for the equipment finance industry.

I spent the summer studying how social media and social networking can be incorporated into equipment financiers’ marketing plans. The research findings – including a survey of equipment finance professionals, three case studies, and a plethora of best practices — can be found in our report, Social Networking for the Equipment Finance Industry, from the Web site of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation (a different organization from the association). The executive summary can be accessed at no charge.

But, I’m not here to sell you on the report (okay, well, maybe a little), but rather share what I heard at the convention. As we heard during our summer research, businesses are interested in social media. They just don’t always know what to do with it. Regardless of the thousands of articles, books and advice available today, it’s still hard to get one’s mental arms around some very important pieces — including calculating return on investment, metrics, and security and privacy concerns.

During the presentation, I received numerous good questions. But, the one that evoked much discussion was the fact that social media can make an individual a star. So, similar to your favorite sports figure, what happens when they switch teams? Do they take all your social media cache with them? Do all their followers (read: prospects) go with them?

Well, yes and no. 

Yes, individuals take themselves, their contacts, their enthusiasm, and social network know-how with them. They also take their positive online reputation (that you hope they built and you profited from) with them. People follow people on social networks, after all.

To avoid having a social media superstar’s departure mean the end of your online presence, a few precautions can be taken, including:

  • Ensure a mix of both corporate face and personal face is distributed. This means allowing the real person to have his or her voice online, but perhaps tweeting and posting under a corporate logo (the extreme) or making it known in their profile who they work for (the least they should do). If the person is responsible and accountable for social media for the company, then one should never eclipse the other. 
  • Make certain your social media star references your company frequently and isn’t just talking about themselves like they  – and they alone — are responsible for all the terrific resources and connections they offer. If the goods really are theirs, then they should say so. But, if the information is produced by a company, then it should be obvious to the reader who the author is.
  • Ensure a social media team is in place. This may seem obvious. But one very enthusiastic player can easily cause other employees to “lay back” a bit and not develop their online presence. Frequent rewards and support will ensure a team of tweeters, posters and bloggers maintain their desire to use social media. If a social media star departs then at least the organization has a set of individuals ready to go when the screen goes dark on the superstar’s computer (or smart phone).
  • Have a formal policy in place for a social media “hand-off.” If a superstar decides to leave, then you can rely on a procedure and system for organizational memory and social media knowledge to be transferred to the team (that we hope you developed by then).
  • Collect passwords of corporate-led social media channels and accounts. Be sure that your departing social media evangelist doesn’t walk out the door with the only keys to the castle(s). After all, institutional social media channels and blogs should be readily accessed by whoever is in charge of updating them — even someone who has to take over relatively quickly.

Yes, cultivate those social media celebrities, but remember what that fame is really for — advancing a mission.

Social Media for the Equipment Finance Industry: Divine or a Distraction?

We spent our summer not at the beach, but rather buried deep in journals, books, online conversations and talking to as many experts as possible about how to incorporate social media into marketing efforts for the equipment finance industry. Working under grant research from the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, we were unsure what we would find. After all this is a conversative (albeit entrepreneurial), regulated B2B industry.

But, after digging deep, we discovered there is a path to take that can yield marketing success. The 135 page white paper will be available in a few weeks for download from www.LeaseFoundation.org. But, in the meantime, one of our conclusion is this: Corporate America will need to prepare itself for the rise of the worker who is empowered by what is possible versus what is permissible with today’s technology. Help channel that empowerment by immersing employees and partners in your brand. Then, listen for where what you have to offer contributes to the online dialogues and needs. From there, you will be better prepared to act in the social media realm.

Messaging at its Most Basic: Naming Your Company

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about how difficult it is to name a company. I find most boards can spend hours arguing over the color of a logo, but aren’t willing to spend the same amount of time going through positioning and messaging work. This is why we recommend a process to make these decisions. This article is a good start.

Replacing the Age Old Media Impression Calculation?

For many years, public relations professionals relied on circulation figures and media  impressions to justify the success (or failure) of a print media relations campaign. Providing clients with a long list of media “hits” with attached impression numbers was what we called “reporting our success.” But, today, with easy access to online and mobile media and the rise of social media, what people are reading and how they are being influenced is changing emerging being revolutionized. It’s only natural our way of reporting whether or not a media relations campaign is successful would change, as well.

Of course, I’m still waiting for that magical new formula. If you believe the six media monitoring vendors we’ve talked with in the last two months about this, the new Magic Success Reporting Formula is still being developed and might not be far away. In the meantime we still report media impressions (along with tone: positive, negative, neutral).

We tried sending reports from other monitoring services, which rate influence and resonance and other fun buzz words. But, our client’s eyes glazed over at the multi-color charts and long lists of hits with live hyperlinks to “see more.” They told us they didn’t know much more than when we just sent them an old-fashioned excel spreadsheet listing stories earned with a final media impression number at the bottom.

I feel their confusion.

And, then today I learned that daily newspapers are beginning to rewrite their own circulation rules. They appear to be engaged in a “do-over.” Determining their “circulation” and readership will now take into account online editions and mobile apps, according to this well-written blog. Good for them. 

Of course this means when we compare our media impression numbers from last year to this year, we’re in a conundrum. But, nevertheless, a new calculation should be developed. 

In addition to reports from the media monitoring companies,  we’ve toyed with the ideas of assigning a separate numerical value to our client’s “wish list” and including a separate report on what news stories in which they are involved are retweeted, shared and posted by others. But, still we wonder.

Where is the line between enough information to calculate success and just too much data, numbers and (albeit fun) charts?

I’d be curious to know what other methods public relations agencies engage when calculating media campaign successes. What say you?

Note: For those of you who are already beginning to pine for the days of smudged fingers and crackles made during page turning, check out this blog: Reflections of a Newsosaur. It made me want to go buy (and read) a real newspaper.