We have had several new business meetings over the past week or so and the discussion always turns to what the organization can be doing in regard to social media.
Not everyone is ready to leap into social media full throttle, but it is important to start the process of listening. See what people in your industry/area of expertise are doing online. Pay attention to the conversations that are happening. It’s a good first step into connecting with your specific community.
Have a critical look at your website. We often get clients calling and asking for a social media strategy and when we start the discussion of why they want to engage in social media, we ask about their website. Quite often, their site is stagnant and hasn’t been touched in a very long time. Your website is an important component of your online brand. How up-to-date is it? How relevant is it? Is there a way to make the content more current on a regular basis?
When clients want to begin to use social media tools as a part of their overall communications outreach, we often recommend starting out small, one step at a time – with a focus on doing it right. Below we have outlined four small actions you can take over the next two weeks to begin to include social media in your day-to-day work.
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Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media networking sites can be of value to your organization depending on your organization and your communication objectives. But your website is of value no matter how big or small your organization is or what your objectives are. And I can’t tell you how often a website is overlooked in an organization with focus often going to the hotter tools like Twitter or Facebook.
We, at AHA, provide communication audits for clients on a regular basis. The review of the organization’s website is a part of this process. We often have to go back to a client with a failing grade on their website. And it’s basic stuff – the information is out of date, there are spelling or grammatical errors, there is no specific contact information (this is especially important in the media section), there is no media section, there is not a consistent voice throughout the site, the site itself is just an online version of the organization’s (outdated) brochure, there is no interactivity, there is no link or connection to the messaging happening on Twitter, Facebook or other social media networking sites. It is surprising how many organizations have not given their website the attention it deserves.
Having a communications professional review your organization’s communications strategy, tools and tactics – including the results – is a valuable exercise. Having an unbiased, professional review of what your organization is doing well, what isn’t working and what could be done differently is important. For example, we recently provided a communications audit for a client that identified that their e-newsletter wasn’t resonating with the stakeholders it was intended to reach. Rather than take this information at face value, we went a little deeper to find out why those who received the e-newsletter weren’t reading it or clicking on the links to the website provided in the e-newsletter.
There were several key points of feedback that were incredibly valuable. People felt that the information in the newsletter was being provided in an information “push out” manner and it was information being presented in a way that readers felt was what the organization wanted them to know, not what they wanted to hear about. They also felt that providing links to the website was – in their words – “useless” because the website itself was “boring,” “out of date” and “not relevant” to what they wanted and needed to know about this organization. Harsh words, but crucial for the organization to know in order to improve their communication efforts.
Our client took the feedback about the website, the e-newsletter and several other communications vehicles seriously. Working with them, we formed a communications committee that will provide input and advice on what tools and technology will be of more value to their stakeholder group. AHA will develop a communications plan that reflects the information from the audit and the input of the communications committee. Over the next six months, a series of new outreach tools and campaigns will be launched that will connect with stakeholders in a more relevant and effective manner – that provide information in a way that stakeholders want to hear from the organization. It’s an exciting time for our client. Not only do stakeholders feel that they had input into how they want to be communicated with, the organization has the opportunity to be heard through authentic, relevant and interactive communication rather than by pushing out corporate messages (that were being ignored).
How is your website? Is it relevant? Is it informative? Is it up-to-date and interesting to your stakeholders?
Ragan.com has a great piece about what the media might think about your organization’s website – it’s worth a read.