Saturday, April 04, 2009

Staffing for Social Networking And Online Success

How many social networkers does it take to run a company's online social networking program?

That depends. Not on how big the company is, but on how entrenched you want your company to be in social networking. How active do you want to be online? How effective? Is being transparent, responsible and accountable in your social networking outline and execution?

Here's how our own company determined some of our social networking priorities and execution.

We outlined the different types of readers that we know are interested in book video. We identified our audience. We outlined where those people are online. Many people are on more than one site, so we tried to narrow it down to the sites most likely to have the largest number of our target audience.

We outlined the type of material we want to offer these people. We matched up those elements to where we find that audience. Then we asked ourselves, what is the best platform or venue to reach this audience where they are hanging out online?

Then we developed a plan for our clients that would help them make goals that allowed us utilize the information we have attained, while also meeting the client's set goals.

For example, the client may be more interested in "branding" than sales. Branding is a building block to sales and someone looking to invest in their professional writing career knows they need to start with a good foundation. Going straight to sales may net you something, but it's like skipping foreplay, the payoff just isn't going to be the same.

If the client wants to do branding, let's say, as a chicklit author, we then match up our variety of platforms and venues to ensure that their video, audio, blogs, ads or whatever it is we're doing for them, finds that audience in a way that that audience likes. We might upload a fun video to TeamSugar, Popbytes or any number of similar sites, then approach known bloggers who fit that criteria and ask them to blog using the video. We may have other venues that are appropriate for this campaign and we apply them all.

How many people does it take to make that happen?

Since COS is primarily doing online marketing, promotion and advertising we have a full service front-to-back system.

Front End:

We have four people to address customer service. One main, full time employee who does the initial contact, helps determine the client's needs and is the liaison throughout the entire process.
We have someone who works specifically with our bigger clients. Clients who place multiple orders. This could be a publisher, agent, publicist or author.
For clients who have special needs I, personally, will work with them and our main customer service person to assist them in choosing a goal best suited to them.
And then we have our distribution coordinator who fills in for our main customer service person from time to time because we believe that the people who finish a project should understand how it all got to them.

We then have the products and the producers of those products who work with both the front and back end people.

The back end, or distribution department has 5 main workers and 2 ancillary workers. We have our social media manager who uploads video to social platforms and keeps track of what's going on with those sites on a daily basis. He can tell you if a site allows you to change a thumbnail, add more tags, allows live-links. He knows the ins and outs of how those sites operate.
The distribution coordinator works the front end so she knows what's coming and can advise others in the team what the goals are so appropriate distribution can happen. She collects information needed to optimize SEO, she is in charge of the timing of distribution, and she does things like sends out emails to the team what a book is released since COS does additional work on the day a book is released. She is also the person to follow up with our clients when their experience with us is finished. She sends them our company survey and makes sure they are satisfied with the product and the experience.
The quality control person for distribution goes around to our main sites or specified specialty sites to review how each video is performing. Each new video is assigned certain performance expectations and this person reviews that video to ensure it is living up to expectations. He does this until the end of the first week after the book is released. If the video is not performing to expectations he has a list of actions he will take until we get the video to perform.
Distribution research and development manager spends time each week looking for new venues and platforms. This might be a new video site, new blog, reader site or applying our videos to a new technology altogether. This person works with the other members of the team to follow trends and new opportunities.
We have a Distribution Specialist who works with booksellers, libraries and specialty sites who require special formatting or delivery. This has become a full time job.

In addition to those distribution jobs, customer service assists in R&E and in quality control. We have a tech expert who assists with any technical problems we run into.

But what of social networking itself?

Some of these positions incorporate social networking. Andrew, who watches the video performance, will post bulletins, blogs or comment in groups as he identifies how to get a video or audio product to perform better.

We have a group of volunteers made of of readers who will create a buzz for certain campaigns by talking about it in their own circle of influence.

I do the majority of social networking online. I blog every week for one of several blogs. Our COS MySpace blog is the most popular and has had tens of thousands of people read it. We have the COS blog, RECTV blog and I blog for Future Perfect Publishing. Recently I was made chair of the ITW (International Thriller Writers organization) Social Networking Committee and I blog on those social sites as well.

I recycle some of the blogs. If I write a blog that is popular I will re-use it down the line on a different venue. This allows me to maximize the work I put into blogging.

Andrew, Victoria and I all work at answering comments that come in to our blogs and social sites. That is something that is shared, but very vital to us.

In the summer of 2009 COS will have a certification program for Social Media Networking that we will require our employees who do front and back end work to attain. This will help our team to be as effective as possible while also being attuned to the ever-changing landscape of social media. This will help us stay on top of what works, what doesn't and how to best use our time.

Social networking takes commitment and dedication. It takes patience and time. And it takes energy and creativity. It isn't just a matter of mastering Facebook or writing a blog. It's become an important tool needed to keep our company viable.