Monday, December 15, 2008

Decorative Cakes and Social Media Policy

I just happened upon a friend of mine's blog. She does incredibly ornate, customized cakes for special occasions. Fun stuff like Mini Coopers, McDonald's Happy Meals, cowboy hats, etc.

The thing that got me thinking though was that her blog was there, live, with great content that's relevant to those interested in customized cakes - tips for cake decorators, tips for lighting and air conditioning in venues where cakes are on display, etc. And I know for a fact that she does not have dedicated web team creating content.

So why is it that getting into social media is so difficult for many companies. Most B2B marketers are in a similar situation to Juanita Koo at Sweet Things; they have a niche product with associated content that is unique or interesting to their target audience. The next steps should be simple; create content, get it out there, and stimulate excitement and interest in the audience.
That effort seems to stumble in mid sized or larger companies more times than not. I'm not convinced that it is a lack of enthusiasm or passion either, as every company has a few folks of the right personality to want to be the passionate advocate for your space.

More often than not, overly heavy guidance on policy, brand use, messaging, content, and topics, stifles the creativity of the content creators and convinces them to expend their creative energy in other places.

Luckily, we've seen recent leadership by Intel and Cisco among others, with some great examples of social media policies. Minimal rules, just guardrails. No approvals, just training. If you're considering diving into social media, or thinking about marketing "getting involved" with existing bloggers at your company, read these policy statements first.

Cisco's social media guidelines (a bit tougher, but still fairly open):

It's a bit more than the official policy though. Culture has a lot to do with it, and if people are worried about needing executive blessing for every piece of content, it will have the same stifling effect, regardless of the official policy. Make sure your team is able to create content with the same level of enthusiasm as Juanita Koo does for her cake decorating blog and you'll be set up for success. And of course, if you're in Toronto and in need of a custom cake...
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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