I was recently chatting with the owner of a wood fabrication shop about starting a blog and establishing a social media presence when he asked a great question: What happens when the consultants leave?
I found myself speechless. Here was someone who obviously appreciated the value of social media and online community building but was rightfully afraid that any strategy handed to him by a consultant would be unsustainable over the long term. He might be able to afford having a consultant perform an analytics assessment, establish new social media accounts, and seed a new blog with a few posts about innovative wood reclamation projects--but who was going to continue with these efforts once the contract was over and the money had ran out?
Ever since that conversation, I've been asking myself whether we, as consultants, are designing effective and sustainable strategies for small businesses?
Small businesses are characterized by limited resources, but are nevertheless destined to compete on the same playing field as their larger competitors. They often have one person wearing 3, 4 or even 5 hats, one of which may include the implementation of a multi-channel online marketing strategy.
When someone's time is spread so thin, their use of any platform, including web, social media, email and mobile must be both targeted and streamlined. Small businesses don't have the luxury of hiring employees or consultants to test out numerous messages on various platforms. As consultants, we need to respond to this constraint by delivering the most targeted and streamlined strategy we possibly can.
Instead we often fall into the trap of developing tried and true tips that we hand out to businesses and organizations, big or small. We often ignore the resource implications of our advice, touting the effectiveness of our strategies rather than their long term sustainability.
We say a blog is great for link-building and should be prominently featured on the homepage, but fail to ask--who will be responsible for updating the blog and thus keeping the homepage current? We say to start a daily newsletter, but don't provide the proper training on how to analyze data from the email newsletter campaign publisher. We say to start a Twitter account, but fail to identify who will be monitoring the feed and using it to engage followers.
We assume our clients will allocate necessary staffing resources if they want their online marketing campaign to be a success. We shirk off responsibility, telling ourselves it's not within our purview to make operational decisions for the business.
But as strategists, shouldn't resource allocation be one of the first questions we ask? Aren't we there to counsel our clients; not only on the technical components of online marketing and social media engagement, but also on the business/resource implications of it.
If we neglect to engage our clients in discussions about long-term resource constraints, we are setting them up for failure. The metrics of success we hand our clients need to reflect reality, not an idealistic notion of what could be if there were endless amounts of time and personnel to devote to the effort.
What do you think? How do you integrate sustainable solutions into your social media and online community building strategies?