“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” This quote from Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, chief of staff for the Prussian army in the late 1800′s and one of the great strategists, has had a profound effect on modern warfare tactics and forms the basis for a concept called “Commander’s Intent.” When orders are handed down through the U.S. Army, each has a short, plain speaking description of the intent of the specific order. These statements get more and more specific as the orders are given down the command chain. The idea is that each commander, company, and soldier has a clear understanding not only of the plan, but the intent of the plan. While plans may fail due to any number of reasons, the soldiers are able to adapt, improvise, overcome and complete their mission if they understand the commander’s intent.
And so it is with social media strategy, I think. If you empower your organization to truly engage in social media and to build trust with your customers, constituents, and colleagues then they will not necessarily be entering into battle, but it will still be the same sort of fluid, unpredictable situation. It’s as important to communicate the commander’s intent to them as it is to have a detailed strategy.
To that end, I have come up with a memorable and (hopefully) “sticky” acronym for what I think is a useful guide for the social media commander’s intent; BARE. This stands for “Be Authentic, Relentless, and Everywhere.”
OK, in order to make this work I had to settle on one word here but the reality is that “authentic” is a stand-in for several others like affable and approachable. Generally speaking it means that you need to be yourself, and treat others the way you want to be treated (sound familiar?). Using Twitter is a nonstop, mechanized press release squawk box is not authentic. Talking about relevant industry news or celebrating a customer’s success is. It’s important to be conversational and respectful of online friends and followers by posting information that is relevant to them. That’s not the same as saying it needs to be important. Posting pictures of the company’s holiday party isn’t going to make it easier for anyone to do their job, but it tells a story and makes a human connection with people. Most people actively engaged in social media have an extremely sensitive B.S. detector and will flame you without conscience for being disingenuous or disrespectful online.
It takes time to build a network. However, it’s something that must be done steadily and with purpose. Eventually, if your content is worth following the network will continue to grow over time. Canyons are formed in similar ways. Most of the formation is done slowly and constantly over long periods of time by small bodies of moving water and wind. But there are also storms and floods that cause torrents of water to flow through them a cut away large swaths of land in one shot. This is the equivalent of “going viral” on the web when you post content that gets lots of traction and attracts large numbers of followers in a short period of time. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say, so stay the course and keep working toward that flood!
This is not to be taken literally – you only have so many resources to dedicate so you need to be smart about it. Re-purposing content is the key to this strategy. By developing systems that can deliver a single bundle of content to multiple social media channels, you can maximize your productivity and minimize your time investment. One technology that allows you to do this is Posterous. By simply sending a single email to your Posterous account, it will decide which channels should also receive the content and reproduce it in multiple places. For example, sending an email with a group of photos attached causes Posterous to post the pictures to a previously authorized Flickr account. It will also convert them to a slide show for display on your Posterous page and send updates with links to your Twitter account and Facebook fan page. You need to squeeze every drop of value from all of the content that you generate by posting it everywhere you can, with as little effort as possible. This will generate the most traffic back to your content and also have the best chance of finding people where they live. Not everyone uses Twitter just like not everyone uses Facebook. After all, why did Willy Sutton rob banks? Because that’s where the money is.
Be Authentic, Relentless, and Everywhere!