Two clear themes emerged from from the BlogHer Business Conference: First, figuring out if and how to implement social media is confusing for many companies. Second, the fundamentals still apply.
I was struck by the number of representatives of financial services companies who approached Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo in the lab after the presentation of her case study hoping to learn more about Wells Fargo's pioneering approach to incorporating social media into their marketing mix. I'm sure each of the other lab sessions had a similar experience with representatives of other types and sizes of businesses seeking the same thing.
With blogging alone, if your company has decided to pursue a blog, who do you have write it? The CEO? Company employees? Freelance bloggers? We heard examples of each of the above at the conference. Not to mention figuring out if you should set up shop in Second Life, set up a Twitter feed or how to create a social media press release.
Before trying to figure out the implementation, it is imperative to figure out the goal, strategy and plan. What is the business goal your company is trying to achieve (increasing household penetration, increasing purchase occasions among existing households, etc...)? What is your strategy for achieving your goal(s) (a mix of TV, print, PR events, hosting online forums, blogging, ...)? Once you've determined the elements of your strategy, what is your plan to implement it (find bloggers in house, determining how blogging fits in to job responsibilities, hiring outside bloggers, how to find them, off the shelf technology solutions or custom built, in-house technology expertise or outside consultants)? That's the point when the question of who will blog comes in. Figuring out whether or not there's someone in-house to blog should not drive your decision to blog.
Lena West has a great post-conference guest post at Yvonne DiVita's blog, Lipsticking, where she points out that there's always a lot of interest in the "return" of ROI and less in the "investment." Again, the fundamentals apply. Social media isn't a magical new marketing bullet, rather there are just new tools.
To that point, Susan Getgood points out that the tools are not the story, the benefits of the tools are not the story (the return Lena speaks of) but rather the content of the story is still king. A tricked out social media press release doesn't create any magic if all it does is create some links and SEO to a story that's not worth telling.
So for companies looking for the "how" to implement social media, first look at the "why" and then proceed to the "how" and then you'll reap the "return" on your "investment" in planning. And if it's confusing to figure out if and how social media fits into your strategy and plan and whether or not social media tools will help you accomplish your goals (probably yes if you are willing to make the investment in using them wisely and well) then there are lots of smart folks out there than can help guide you. Christopher Carfi of Cerado, for example, offers a set of slides to get you started that outlines the elements of a business blog.