We’ve all seen it – A company who launches a Facebook fan page with a URL that seems completely unrelated to their root domain, and is nothing like their Twitter handle. Or a company who launches a blog on a completely separate URL than their root domain and doesn’t link the two in any way. Usually in these cases, social media sites are created out of a sense of necessity rather than purpose, and thus the company’s look, tone, and feel is different from page to page, platform to platform. Sure, it’s all with good intention, but creating an online identity in such a way will undoubtedly create a poor user experience, and moreover a poor corporate image.
I’ve written this post as a result of my experiences building an online presence with national scope and deep infrastructure at Women’s Professional Soccer, and I offer the following suggestions as a way to name your company’s online presence – from your core website to your social media sites – in a systematic way that makes sense for both the people who manage the content and those that engage with it. It may or may not be right for your company, but hopefully you may find some information useful, as I’m also including tips for the actual engagement strategy because that really should go hand-in-hand with how you build the network out.
Of course, this model really is transferable to a multitude of companies, but I’ll use the example of a professional sports league for conversation’s sake. In the graphic below, you can see the division between four levels of users I’ve identified:
- Level 1 – League (aka “The Hub”)
- Level 2 – Teams
- Level 3 – Employees
- Level 4 – Fans
- For levels 1 & 2, these accounts are set up by the league and teams. They are managed by team personnel, but remain the property of the employing organization. Website and public relations/communications personnel are expected to collaborate with one another to keep these sites content-rich and current.
- For levels 3 & 4, the league and teams ask that all employees inform them of any and all websites a representative owns, operates, posts to, writes for, manages, etc. However, Individuals (coaches, GMs, front office staff, players, etc.) are encouraged to host or write for their own blogs or external media outlets. These accounts remain the property of the individual person after his/her employment with the organization has ended.
Set up a unique URL, like www.league.com where all information pertaining to the league is posted – This is your hub. Create social channels utilizing similar branding – ie. facebook.com/league, twitter.com/league, youtube.com/league, etc. Use all lower case letters. You might also consider a league-level blog at www.league.com/blog.
Set your hub, in this case www.league.com, as the main source for news and information. Items are first posted to the hub, and your social community becomes a conversational distribution network for this information, where users should be encouraged to visit the main website for the full story – Train your readers that the place to get breaking news, information and more is your company’s hub. Make it as easy as possible for your visitor to get the information they’re looking for.
- Remain consistent with your naming convention and design elements across all sites. Visitors should be able to recognize your company marks no matter where they are on the internet.
- Remember that social media is about two-way communication, real relationships. Simply posting news to Facebook won’t earn you any favors. Talk to the people who care enough to “like” you brand and ask for feedback. Start opinion polls, share interesting antecdotes, post photos and videos, be entertaining and answer people’s questions.
- Link it up and make all pages throughout the network are easy for users/fans to access. It should be easy to get from one URL or social community to the next.
- Every online community is just a little bit different, so I recommend communicating within each site in a way that makes sense for those folks. Here are a few ideas:
- Never create more web/social pages than you can realistically manage. Designate a person (or people) in the central office to update, manage and maintain these sites.
– Facebook.com/league – The Facebook profile becomes a distribution outlet for information, and a place to receive feedback from your community. This community is particularly keen on feature stories, photos, videos, and other information they can’t get otherwise. Be sure to link back to your hub as often as possible to draw traffic. Engage.
– Twitter.com/league – The Twitter profile is a great place to share real-time information. Post game scores before a press release goes up, share TwitPics from major press conferences before your photographer can get them to you. Post links back to your hub as often as possible to draw traffic. Engage.
-YouTube.com/league – The YouTube page offers your community a place to watch game highlights, behind-the-scenes videos, press conferences. This is also a great place for media to get quotes if they can’t attend events in person.
Now let’s look a level deeper in your business structure. Sticking with the professional sports league example, that means we move on to teams. (In your case, it may mean a regional offices or departments.) Set up a unique URL for each team, like www.league.com/team, and yes I recommend subfolders over subdomains to enhance the searchability of your root domain. Create social channels utilizing similar branding – ie. facebook.com/team, youtube.com/team, twitter.com/team and so on. Again, all lower case letters. Also consider a team-level blog at www.league.com/team/blog.
- Use these outlets for information relating to that specific team/department. In the league/team model, one might consider game-day updates, ticket plans or tactical player formations. A business department might post about special offers, new products or other operational updates.
- All the tips from The Hub discussion (above) apply here as well to individual teams/departments.
- Keep the URLs short, descriptive and meaningful.
- Encourage teams to share information horizontally from one franchise to the next across the content distribution network, enhancing each others visibility in alternate markets.
- Encourage teams to reconstitute information from the league-level, and the league is encouraged to do the same with information from the teams to give important bits more of a national scope.
Employees/coaches/administrative personnel will come and go, while your organization will (hopefully) be around forever. By creating a systematic naming convention, you’ll ensure that your social media presence remains consistence, even when personnel change.
Engage your staff in your company’s campaign, while encouraging them to build and develop a personal brand image that is separate from the company URL structure. For example, instead of creating a twitter handle @leaguemarketing to use a personal user name, go with @personalname. Then, bump the @leaguemarketing up to level 2 and give ownership to the folks in the marketing department to post related news, share information and provide customer service. If and when the marketing executive leaves your company (which is certainly common in today’s day and age), your brand image will remain in tact, and he/she will still own their personal brand. Check out a blog post I wrote a while back called How to Market Yourself as a Professional Athlete using Social Media for ideas.
- Establish organizational guidelines regarding public communications, and talk with new employees about it early and candidly. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.
- As an example, at Women’s Professional Soccer, we adapted the League PR policy to include Social Media and, generally speaking, the three “P’s” (Public, Provocative, Personal) defined an unacceptable comment, regardless of whether it was on TV, on the radio, in a blog or in a tweet.
- Here are some wise words of wisdon from BrassTackThinking.com:
You’re now a representative of that brand, publicly. The lines start to blur between what’s personal and what’s professional, and all the disclaimers in the world won’t always mean that you can or should post whatever’s on your mind. The personal and professional profiles you keep might be and feel physically separate, but Google doesn’t know the difference, and sometimes, neither do your customers. You need to make conscious choices online about how you interact, what you post, and how you marry your individuality and personality with your professional reputation and obligations. They’re inextricably tied and related to one another, and you’re likely going to have to make some sacrifices on the personal front in order to maintain a professional persona that’s appropriate for your work. It’s just part of
the gig [life in the digital age].
At the heart of any business are the people who purchase its products.
Research is surfacing that demonstrates the impact social media has on brand affinity. For example, in this recent publication in Sports Business Journal, Social-media use builds fan avidity, “the results show that 61 percent of MLB fans and 55 percent of NFL fans consider themselves bigger fans of the respective leagues since they started following their favorite teams on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites. In addition, more than half of MLB fans (and 43 percent of NFL fans) said they spend more time watching and following the league now than they did prior to their social-media engagement.”
Engaging with people online can really support your business in a meaningful way, one that affects ROI, as the more loyalty people have toward your product or organization, the more likely they will be to buy from you – not only the first time, but again and again.
- Speak to your fans/customers promptly and professionally… as though they’re in the room with you. Social media may be the only interaction they every have with your product before they decide to purchase (or not!).
- Spend more time listening and learning from your customers than you do telling them stuff.
- Be true, honest and open with your fans and they will reward you for it with brand loyalty.
- Be helpful.
- Share links to neat things.
- Tell stories that are credible, fun and memorable.
- Promote your co-workers/employees’ out-of-work stories.
As you determine the organizational structure of your social media, it’s also important to consider how information flow occurs between the various levels of users. Taking an integrated approach to sharing communications across platforms and between user levels will ensure brand consistency in both content and voice.
In the structure below, you’ll notice that anything the league puts out can be retweeted, liked or reposted by teams, individuals or fans, and vice versa – Social media is about two-way communications – REAL relationships. Additionally, information may flow horizontally for one user between platforms. Unfortunately on this graphic I really should have included a line directly from the fan to the league, because I don’t think it should necessarily have to go through each level, but well, that’s for another blog post.
As I stated earlier, this is just an example based on work I’ve done – but it’s certainly not the answer for everybody. All companies are different, as are all communications strategies. Importantly, the Internet is dynamic and evolving – I wonder what this would look like
10 2 years from now!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and would love to learn more about your company’s organizational social media strategy.