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A partner in my company, Concentric, recently dropped by her favourite Italian restaurant to pick up a take out order. She was chatting with the manager of the restaurant and their conversation turned to customer comments and reviews the restaurant was receiving from their new online channel. The bottom line from their conversation was that the company had been so busy launching online that little time was devoted to thinking about strategy in terms of operating the channel once it was created.
My personal observation is that planning around the operation of online channels (a website, a social media page, a newsletter, etc.) is important—whether the channel is currently live or in the process of being launched. Visitors, subscribers, friends, fans or followers are expecting great things from us online, creating an obligation for our brands to deliver.
What can you be doing now or planning for if you are in the midst of building, launching or operating an online channel? How do you operate and optimize so you know when to expand to include other online services?
Consider the following insights, tips and advice as a starting place to build a strategy for your operational online success:
- Ensure you have an ongoing content plan that details the content you will post in the future. The plan can include actions, topics, dates and assignments for the channels you plan to post on or respond to.
- Online media, particularly social media, cause any organization to learn new habits. This will take time. Ensure all internal stakeholders understand your requirements. Consider creating a process map that outlines daily, weekly and monthly activities to assist with building new habits and to save you time in the future.
- Develop frameworks to manage customer and prospective customer activity you receive from your online channels (example: social media posts, inquiries and emails). Key considerations should include:
- Developing a social media and communications policy
- Determining who in your organization is responsible for channel communications
- Creating key messages or content over time if some inquiries begin to follow the same pattern
- Measure the activity taking place on your online channels to understand how each channel is being used by visitors and more importantly how this relates to the “digital dollars” you are spending. If you expect to have visitors take a measurable action then consider measuring activity through a “cost per acquisition” model. At minimum, consider creating a set of metrics that measure items such as:
- Content views and interaction (comments, shares, etc.) by subject, so you can determine which content resonates with your target audience. This can assist with understanding which content to focus on creating
- The time of the day and days of the week your audience is active to ensure your content is delivered when your audience is online
- Which third party networks and channels are delivering visitors to you so you can decide which relationships are important to curate and focus on
- Regularly review the online channels from companies who are “leaders” in your category to see how their approach to operating their online channels differs from yours. Also review the “fast followers” to see how and if they are changing. Benchmark your observations so you can learn from your competition.
- Meet regularly to discuss performance of your online channels with your team. Ensure you provide each channel with a long enough lead time to gain an accurate assessment of its performance—usually three to six months. Share your learning.
- Embed your new habits from steps 1 to 6 into your company’s standard operating procedures and daily activities, where possible.
Final Word . . . for now
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Adopting one or more of these steps, when operating your online channels will provide many advantages to your organization. Future requests for new services can be measured against the benchmarks and data collected to assist with product, service and strategy decisions. You’ll also gain internal and competitive intelligence from the metrics you measure. A focused operations management plan will also assist in ensuring your online efforts are driven by your ongoing business goals. But a word of caution, this activity will take a bit of time since it may involve creating new habits.
Joe Wozny, author of The Digital Dollar: Sustainable Strategies for Online Success, is a digital and online media thought leader, strategist, author, blogger and international presenter on strategies to improve the reach and success of Internet, social and digital media initiatives. Through his company, Concentric, he helps leaders leverage their businesses using smart, well planned digital strategies. More blogs from Joe about online strategy topics can be found here. For more information please visit http://TheDigitalDollar.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter