For the Best Connections via Social Media Focus Your Profiles on People

Before I started Strategic Communications in 2008, I worked for some large organizations in the education, energy, and healthcare industries. These were the early days of internet and social media adoption and it was, at least initially, wildly uncharted space. When the American Medical Association issued guidance for physician use of social media, I was all for it. In my former role, even absent these guidelines, I would have worked hard to keep our providers from  independently using social media to communicate with patients.

But, my role has changed. And so has the social media and digital environment. Today, I spend more time helping individuals (generally business professionals, consultants, authors and entrepreneurs) raise awareness of their products and services. It’s not that they’re less concerned about risk. It’s just that they have less risk to manage and fewer communications to monitor. They have a big benefit over larger organizations because they’re more likely to be able to connect “one on one” with their audiences.

As I dabble in, talk about and research the use of social media to help organizations and individuals connect with their desired audiences, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that consumers aren’t interested in interacting with institutions—they’re interested in interacting with people. Individual people.

That creates both new opportunities and new challenges for organizations that must balance both brand/image protection and communication effectiveness.

Great Connections Between Providers and Those They Serve

In the healthcare industry, relationships occur with providers—the people that take care of you. My research has connected me with many providers who are developing great online followings and who are interacting with consumers to a much greater degree than their health care organizations are. Think about it—are you more likely to “follow” or “friend” your local hospital, or your child’s pediatrician?

The same thought process applies for other organizations, particularly large organizations. For instance, are you more likely to connect with a university or a professor? With a large, national department store, or with the owner of a local boutique? And, of course, there are some organizations and individuals that may simply  not lend themselves to online relationships, at least with general consumer audiences. Banks? Utility companies? Car manufacturers? Manufacturers of any kind for that matter… How often do you really need to interact with these types of organizations–or any of the individuals within them?

As you consider your organization’s social media strategy, there are some key questions that you should be asking as you contemplate whether social media has value for you.

The first question:

“What are we hoping to achieve through these efforts?” What’s the goal? If you don’t have a goal at the outset, there’s no conceivable way you’ll be able to measure or evaluate results. Your goal should also give you an indication of the audience you hope to impact or influence. “We want to increase our customers’ levels of satisfaction with our customer service efforts by 25%.” Or, “We want to increase awareness among non-customers in our service area by 30%.”

The second question:

“Is there value for our constituents in connecting with us?” That question should be considered long and hard—and realistically. There may be some utility customers that might be interested in getting tweets about planned outages and, certainly during unplanned outages, there may be consumers interested in knowing what’s going on. But these interactions are more situational than ongoing. Based on your target audience, what value will you able to provide that is significant enough to get them to connect with you–and stay connected?

The third question:

“Who do our audiences wish to interact with?” Often (but not always), the answer is going to represent individuals–or groups–not your organization. We don’t develop relationships with organizations; we develop them with people. That means managing multiple profiles and balancing the need to protect your brand with the value of allowing individuals to reflect their own unique personalities to their audiences.

The fourth question:

“How will we evaluate results?” This ties back to the first question, of course. Before launching a social media initiative you should think about how you will determine whether your goals are met. We actually have a great new white paper on defining effective business metrics, that you may find helpful.

The fifth question:

“How do we avoid risk?” Yes, there are risks involved in online communications. The risks themselves are really no different than they’ve ever been—businesses and individuals have always been considered about their reputations and about how to best respond to disgruntled consumers—but the potential impact has increased exponentially. It makes sense for organizations to develop a plan up front for how they will address the creation and posting of information, responses to consumers feedback and input, and various types of potentially reputation-impacting issues that may arise.


When possible, err on the side of putting people (real people) out front and supporting their profiles and social media efforts. Yes, you may need to support a corporate profile as well. But I’m sure you’ll find, as I have, that the communication that occurs between people is much richer and engaging than communication that occurs between people and organizations.


About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results at reasonable rates.

In addition to content creation we specialize in helping B2B clients raise awareness and drive website traffic through a strong LinkedIn and Twitter presence.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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