Building social media into your stakeholder engagement strategy

9 May 2014 By Northern Lights

Building social media into your stakeholder engagement strategy image

ball, world, social mediaStakeholder engagement is considered by 82 per cent of senior communicators across Europe to be important to their organisation’s success, according to research by Brunswick Insight – and 90% expect the scope and scale of stakeholder engagement activities to increase dramatically over the next five years.

But surprisingly, while most acknowledge the importance of strategic communications activity, just three in ten (29%) use specific KPIs to measure the success of their organisation’s engagement.

While cross channel “engagement” can be notoriously difficult to measure, social media offers great opportunities for developing successful stakeholder engagement campaigns and – importantly – measuring success.

Think about the key foundations for developing a successful stakeholder engagement strategy: alignment with the organisational objectives; mutual benefits; trust and respect; buy-in and commitment from senior management.

Social media can directly contribute to all of these. But what should you focus on? And how do you measure success?

Using social media to engage with stakeholders

The same research found that while 79% currently monitor social media channels, just 30% blog, 28% map online influencers, and 19% create online panels at present.

This is a missed opportunity, and one that Northern Lights has often spoken about. (See ‘Is it time for all senior executives to understand the principles of business focused social media?’).

By it’s very nature, social media is a two-way conversation. Those who invest and do it well report increased trust and employee engagement: 78% of professionals prefer to work for a company whose leadership team is active on social media and 8 in 10 consumers say they’re more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engage in social media. 

There are a number of ways you can engage stakeholders online. To work out where you should spend your time, first identify all the key groups you want to engage with. Then look at where they spend their time. Do they tweet? Do they contribute to group discussions on LinkedIn?

Here is a quick run-down of some platforms you might want to focus on to start with:

blog2Blogging – a blog is a great way to establish yourself as an industry thought leader and invite contributions from key stakeholders. As well as giving you a platform to share information about what you do and showcase your industry knowledge, blogs offer a platform for two-way engagement as they invite comments and discussion. It is the engine for all your social media channels as it provides regular new content to share. It also has a huge positive impact on your website SEO. More on why blogging is great for business and some tips on planning blogs.

Twitter – if you’re not already engaging with your stakeholders on Twitter, you are likely to be missing out on a lot of opportunities. Twitter is a great place to share your blog post links and connect directly with industry leaders who you may never normally be able to access. Not convinced? Read this. Victoria has also just published a beginners guide to getting started on Twitter. And this six-week Twitter engagement plan can help you get results quickly.

LinkedIn – I get around 40% of my new business from LinkedIn, so I spend quite a lot of time posting in groups and discussion boards on there. Yorkshire Mafia is the most popular B2B LinkedIn group in our region, but there are numerous industry-specific groups too. See advice on how to complete your LinkedIn profile and how to win new business through Linkedin. LinkedIn is also a good place to connect with stakeholders, share your blog links and other useful content. Consider using LinkedIn groups as a platform for bringing key stakeholders together to discuss ideas and projects.

How are other organsiations using social media to engage stakeholders?

Take a look at the Times 100 best companies to work for. These organisations put great efforts into stakeholder engagement, and ensure their campaigns are aligned with their branding, values, internal communications and recruitment.

Using social media for stakeholder engagement allows companies unique opportunities to speak directly to groups with whom contact previously would have been difficult, if not impossible.

Stakeholder engagement at Marks & Spencer: social media and openness

blackberry, phone, mobileFor example, Marks & Spencer uses smartphone applications to reach factory employees working for subcontractors. This not only links the management team directly and instantly to the factory floor, but also allows customers to access detailed information about where and how products are made.

While this offer is facilitated by social media technology, it also highlights a vital component of good stakeholder communications: honesty and openness. Without that latter, stakeholder communications will fall flat. M&S chief executive Marc Bolland notes the advantage M&S has in already having a lot of information about its suppliers, saying “it’s more difficult for organisations that don’t have that transparency.”

Measuring success

There is little point using social media to engage with stakeholders if you do not have monitoring systems in pace to measure the impact of your campaigns. But beware of getting buried in metrics. Your analysis should focus on your objectives. As well as measuring engagement and new business enquiries, here are some things you might want to consider:

Online influence – Sign up for Klout to keep an eye on your own online influence and benchmark against others in your industry. Peerindex is another one to look at.

Reputation – It is now possible to data mine and capture meaning from online conversations with the click of a few buttons. Tools like SAS Social Media Analytics and Social Mention analyse the tone of online conversations to give you a quick indication if your branding or CSR efforts are being well received and whether conversations are positive.

Recruitment enquiries – another good indicator of how well your company is perceived is by the number of applications you receive for jobs.

Social media is a fantastic tool for developing stakeholder engagement campaigns. Social sharing (ie content shared through social media websites) is also rated highly by Google, so has a big positive impact on your website SEO. But, like, any communications channel, it should be done as part of your overall communications strategy and should link directly to your business goals.

How do you measure stakeholder engagement and which tools do you find the best?  Please leave a comment below – we’d love to share best practice on this.

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