Here's the latest edition of the Melcrum Social Media and Intranets Newsletter (full archive) entitled, Why social media strategy needs to go beyond guidelines.
In a previous issue, I wrote about the importance of guidelines and deft moderation when it comes to implementing social media tools on your intranet. At launch – be it a new corporate blog, wiki system or anything else where you're looking for additional participation – it's of paramount importance to have clear guidelines around acceptable language and behavior. These days, such guidelines are often implicit in an employee's use of corporate systems, but it never hurts to present them boldly wherever necessary.
What's also critically important is your wider strategy around implementation: your communication plan around the new tool(s) and how you intend to encourage and develop dialogue.
Your communication plan
How are you going to publicize your new site – a corporate blog, for example? Taking a "big bang" approach to the launch can often set you up for a big bang failure. But you do want to get some readership and discussion. At the very minimum you'll want to let a small group of people know that a new site is live, and that the comments function is there to be used. From there, you may be aiming for the site to gain traction via word of mouth.
Alternatively, the site may be publicized more widely, in which case you need to have the right people in place to keep track of, and maintain, progress.
Dealing with the first comments
What do you do when those comments begin? Beyond monitoring the content, it depends on how the site is set up. If it's a regular blog with one or more authors then, ultimately, it's down to the authors to engage in discussion. Your role may well be to encourage further contributions from those authors involved.
Not all examples are regular blogs, however.
A recent example I've seen is the transfer of a weekly internal e-newsletter onto a blogging platform. The e-newsletter still goes out, but with summaries of the stories and links taking readers back to the blog site. In this example, the webmaster was given notification of comments on each individual story. The answer in this case was to notify the person or team responsible for the story that comments were coming in.
What happens if you don't get any comments?
The other concern is, of course, that you launch a new site and there's barely any form of comment or contribution, let alone full discussion or collaboration. You should be prepared for this, and also be prepared to get into the thick of it yourself by aiming to stimulate discussion with valid and transparent comments and contributions. (By transparent, I mean it should be clear that it's you leaving the first few comments – don't present yourself as someone else.)
Ensure you have the right people
Together with suitable publicity and clear guidelines, a key to initial success with a new social media tool is having the people in place who are willing to engage and stick with the plan (even if it gets off to a slow start), and ensuring that the official side of the discussion is honest, transparent and personable.
As with the handling of negative comments, the engagement and energy of those leading the discussions must be taken into consideration as early as possible. It all goes back to that fundamental point about "social" media. It's about the people and their participation. The technology is just an enabler