In the first two installments on planning social media, Innis Maggiore provided perspective and specific categories and examples that define the social media space. As part of planning your level of participation in social media, you'll first need to consider media from the available landscape listed in the second installment.

Based on those media you choose, decide the level at which you want your organization to participate in social media. No one level is exclusive to the others and each medium you choose can have a different level of participation. These are the levels of involvement and investment to consider in planning social media:

    • Monitoring
    • Commenting
    • Joining
    • Hosting

We'll save joining and hosting for the next in this series on planning social media. For now, let's discuss monitoring and commenting.

Monitoring is the safest level of social "involvement." It's like being a wallflower. Usually companies "keep their distance" by simply identifying specific social networks where they most often appear and keeping tabs on anything mentioned about the company (e.g., Twitter), or simply regularly searching activity on the web.

An easy way to monitor without heavy human resources is to set up RSS feeds based on the highest value keyphrases of the company (e.g., company name, product names, executive names, industry terms, and competitors) or subscribing to RSS feeds known to publish content about the company.

As content appears about the company - whether good or bad - strategies can be developed that respond/react to the key notions within the content. These strategies typically involve other indirect media tactics (e.g., article release, website, direct mail) rather than responding within the space where the content was published. However, while planning social media, even if monitoring is as much as your organization wishes to participate, be ready for the possibility of commenting.

Commenting is the next level of social media participation. Direct response to published content (e.g., forums, articles, news releases, blogs) must be done carefully, with intent to educate rather than react. Best practice also states that it's important to self-identify as the representative from the company who is responding.

Commenting can be extremely effective in the "how-to" environment because it sets up your company as an expert source.

Commenting can also be extremely ineffective in a place where product or company reviews are hosted. When in doubt, allow the social community to aggregately "defend" your product or service and resist the temptation to react to a few unhappy reviewers.

If the negative remarks are widespread, it may just be your product or service that needs to change. Remember when commenting to source relevant content within your web properties by inserting the web address of the specific page where this content is provided.

Stay tuned for the next installment when we'll cover joining and hosting participation in planning social media.

Mark Vandegrift's 5-Part Social Media Series

    1. Making Sense Of Social Media Planning
    2. Uncovering the Social Media Landscape
    3. Planning Your Participation in Social Media
    4. Joining The Social Media Conversation
    5. When To Use Social Media Advertising