It seems many organisations believe it to be important to have some form of social media strategy. The lure of reaching new audiences in new ways using Facebook or Twitter is certainly an attractive proposition. It is easy to view these tools as resource neutral. Unlike a website they are free, there is no need for outlay on the design of building of your online architecture, it is there and ready to use. However, the implications of appearing on a site such as Facebook is that you are joining a community and every community has rules. There may well be a degree of expectation that you will interact: answering questions and dealing with customer service enquiries publicly within the architecture of that site. Equally there is an etiquette that needs observing. If you are linked to should you thank that person, should you respond to a follow Friday recommendation on Twitter, the list goes on. How do you respond?
The issue is one of resources and a report by University of St Gallen is well worth a read to fully understand fully how to consider what the appropriate social media strategy should be given the resources at hand. This month's Communication Director, provides a snapshot of the resource implications (see the table below).
Even if strategy amounts to monitoring, which should be almost de rigueur for any serious brand, this is time consuming. Thus we find that on every scale, social media increases the workload rather than simplifying the work of someone working within communications.
Research found this to be the case with MPs and recently we have been analysing Internet usage within the European Parliament from a number of perspectives (data analysis ongoing so don't ask just yet), with a follow-up questionnaire to capture these kind of issues as well as strategic differentiators. With MPs and the UK Parliament, resources (time and support) were key determining factors; so it is not simply the case of should we go 'interactive' but can we and what do we do if people interact. How is the new communication environment to be managed and how can the ecosystem be both worked with and monitored to make sense seems one of the greatest challenges for those working in 21st Century strategic communication.