The Importance Of Flexible Strategy

It’s easy in social media to find people talking about all of their clients who are doing well. It’s a bit more rare to find people talking about their clients when they struggle. To assume that you won’t struggle with implementation of your strategy in a social media campaign is a huge mistake, however.

I’m fortunate in that I won’t take a client who is not enthusiastic about integrating social media into their existing marketing plan. For someone to try and engage halfheartedly is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, and has a negative effect on the measure of both monetary ROI and interest based ROI. Even so, some clients still struggle. There are several factors that may cause this struggle, and it’s important to have a social media strategy that is flexible enough to address potential problems and adjust to fit the client as you go forward.

Problem 1: The Learning Curve

I know – for those of us who live and breath social media, the learning curve problem seems like a moot point. To us, it’s easy. Remember, though, that your client most likely won’t find it as easy as you do. Make sure you address the learning curve thoroughly from day one. In this case, thoroughly researching your client’s habits and the habits of the person or people who will be manning the campaign is essential.

By having a firm grasp of how your client prefers to get and give information outside of social media, and how they interact with customers, staff, friends and family, you can help them pick better tools. When things have a high learning curve or require being added to an already busy day, choosing the right tools will make a huge difference in how happy the client is with the additional time they will be spending incorporating social media into a campaign.

Example: A busy CEO needs mobile tools. A person who spends most of the day at a desk may prefer desktop applications. People who don’t like to write and who might not keep up with a blog might do better with an audio or video tool, or a combination. Someone on the floor at a service business might have a lot of fun with “interview” style tools like Qik for generating content and getting real time comments. Every client will have a different need to match their habits and passions. In some cases, you may need multiple and different tools for multiple people manning a campaign.

Problem 2: The Intimidation Factor

I see this most often. A client, enthusiastic about social media and raring to go, suddenly realizes the reality of having the internet paying attention to their words, photos or other content. This can create instant “writer’s block” as they become frozen like a deer in headlights. They worry they won’t say the right thing, even as you tell them that there is no “right” thing, it isn’t a test. They worry that they’ll talk and talk and talk and no one will answer back. They worry about legal issues, privacy, being liked, and more. The first week of a social media campaign often makes people feel like the first day of school, or getting picked last in gym.

It’s vital that you recognize this and help your client through it. Take a case in point, the client of mine who inspired this post today. Rick’s Restaurants is a NH business run by a nice family. They serve good food, they have loyal staff and loyal customers, but they need to draw in more business since the two restaurants are located in a bedroom community without a large shopping center or other tourist draw that only has about 5000 or so people living there. That number of people in a community can’t sustain a business. It’s vital that Rick’s Restaurants become a destination for more people in neighboring towns and people passing through.

They decided that social media in addition to their existing radio campaign would be helpful. We got them set up on a variety of networks after determining where their existing customers were and where they could reach new customers. The people manning the campaign are enthusiastic, but think they have nothing to say! Keep in mind, people want to see them on social media – their first week out they got a Twitter based reservation for a group of 36 people on a Saturday night at their Grille location on Main St, and since then have gotten several chef’s table bookings from it as well, so this is an intimidation problem they are having in spite of seeing measurable financial results, quickly.

We’ve been trying a variety of solutions behind the scenes for them, and I think that today we may have found a keeper. Going with the family feeling of Rick’s Pond View and Rick’s Cafe and Grille, we’re bringing Rick’s actual family on board to help. They have NO trouble talking about their son and brother and his restaurant and all of their friends who are regulars there. They want the Rick’s family to grow, because to them the customers are all part their family too. So after bringing them up to speed later today, you’ll see that Rick’s accounts are being manned by Rick (chef/owner) himself periodically, with help from Kim Boetti (his manager), Katie Hayes (bartender) and his parents, George and Joyce. I’m excited, and they are so happy to be involved. You’ll see them posting to the FaceBook Fan Page and Twitter to start, then we’ll bring them into the other social networks gradually once they get used to the extra time commitment (they have a company of their own that they run, after all).

Problem 3: Time, Time Time

Did you give your client an accurate picture of the time required to maintain a presence and listen and engage in social media? Did you take the time to go above and beyond simple training to help them make a schedule and learn to fit it into their day? Have you helped them create a good system so that they don’t feel like they are drowning in notifications, updates and reports? If the answer is no to any of those questions you did your client a disservice. If the answer is yes, and your client still struggles with time management, take your mentoring up a notch and help them review and revise their interaction so they don’t feel so overwhelmed by it all, so chained to their social tools. Maybe they need to implement a system like GTD. Maybe they need to delegate some tasks. Make it a point to find a way to help them be more efficient.

Problem 4: Changing Tools

Sometimes, a client finds a tool they like and use well, and the tool changes (or, as is often the case in social media, disappears altogether). This is out of their control, of course, but is something you can plan for in advance as their strategist. Always have a back up plan! If your client embraces a service like Utterli or Qik as a tool for content generation, for example, make sure you set them up on a similar tool from the beginning. Explain why.

A good company owner is going to embrace the idea of having a back up plan or insurance against problems out of their control. If the service lets your client back up the content they generate, do it! If not, perhaps reevaluate it until it does. An example here is Disqus. I didn’t recommend it to my clients as a comment tool for a long time – I was waiting for it to offer better options for backing up comments in the event of down time. Now that it offers better import and export tools for insurance, I can recommend this powerful comment service with confidence, AND teach my clients ho to back up their system regularly as part of their social media and online maintenance.

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What have your clients struggled with? I’m fortunate to have had many successes and happy clients since I started doing this, but I embrace the few that struggle also. Those are the ones that teach me the most about being ever better at this job I love so much. Never stop learning.

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