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Digital engagement: the importance of strategy
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Digital engagement: the importance of strategy 

The first step to managing a firm’s social media presence is to accept that such a step has value for the company. Hunt noted that many organizational leaders are “digital rookies,” meaning that they do not understand social technologies and their potential value. External forces also play a role in prevailing attitudes. “The general media doesn’t always help in this regard, as they too often emphasize the frivolous and salacious aspects of social media (e.g., engagement by teenagers and entertainment and sports celebrities) and minimize or disregard their more serious and less exciting applications (e.g., business development in a B2B context),” she said.

In addition, social media is still developing. “Both the technologies and their uses are still evolving and maturing, and few leaders have the desire or resources to participate until things start to settle down,” Hunt remarked. Although social media continues to progress, it has become a permanent fixture in the IT landscape. The Denovati Group founder and principal believes that it is only a matter of time until social media management becomes integrated into everyday business operations.

The next step is formulating a social media strategy. “Everything always starts with and depends on the organization’s goals and objectives. Once those are well defined, the question then becomes whether and to what extent social media is important to achieving those goals and objectives,” Hunt commented. “Next, they have to create a realistic assessment of how much time and effort their digital engagement may require, and how that might fluctuate over time.” Firms must also take stock of their internal social media capital, and the capacity their staff has to engage with social media. Hunt acknowledged that many businesses overestimate their capabilities. She noted that companies must ask themselves what they are trying to accomplish, how much work achieving those goals will take, what skills are required to reach those aims, and whether people possess those skills within the organization.

Hunt recommended using consultant firms at the outset. Businesses should initially hire strategists and then turn to tacticians to create a plan of how it will engage. This project includes deciding how many people will be responsible for social media engagement and what those employees should know or do. Hunt compared hiring a consulting firm for social media management with retaining an external law firm or an accounting company. “It never hurts to seek advice and counsel from outside experts to ensure their ideas and activities are on the right track – particularly when they’re venturing into uncharted territory,” she remarked.

After developing a digital engagement plan, business leaders must select the staff members to carry it out. Hunt pointed out that there are several different skill sets that these employees need to possess. A tolerance for repetitive activities, such as writing daily tweets or blog postings, has to be combined with a sense of spontaneity, such as responding to comments or complaints. This balance requires strong organizational skills and discernment. Another quality digital engagement professionals should have is a high level of emotional intelligence. “In the face of challenges and more, it’s important to remain calm, cool and collected – particularly when engaging with others in cyberspace. It may seem Pollyannaish , but a cheerful disposition and strong problem solving and diplomacy skills are key to great digital brand representation,” Hunt said.

These employees should also possess excellent writing skills. “Tweets and status updates may seem breezy, but doing them well requires more effort than people may realize. And when you’re representing a brand, quality – good grammar, nice presentation – is critically important,” Hunt stated. Good judgement is an equally important quality. Hunt explained that professionals in the field of digital engagement must understand the business, the industry, the key stakeholders and their expectations. “Even in markets where innovation and risks are expected and rewarded, that doesn’t mean ‘anything goes,’” she cautioned.

The success of social media management and digital engagement will rely heavily on corporate buy-in. Hunt commented that the keys to a favourable outcome are balance, education, culture and consequences. “Policies should fairly balance the rights and responsibilities of the employer, managers, and individual contributors. Draconian policies that are heavily favored toward the rights of employers will not be acceptable to employees and are less likely to be complied with,” she remarked. Hunt added that workers must also understand why these regulations have been put in place. Often, the people on the ground do not understand why rules benefit both them and the organization.

Furthermore, the company culture must support policies. “If organizational leaders in particular don’t ‘walk the talk,’ it’s less likely other employees will,” Hunt warned. Consequences will also teach everyone at the company the importance of adhering to policy. The consequences must be appropriate, and they must be applied consistently. Otherwise, no one will respect the rules or honour them.

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