Think of yourself with two of your business peers. Which two of you don’t have a social media engagement strategy and accompanying policies in place?  According to a recent InformationWeek article on a Yankee Group report, “Although 70% of consumers want to interact with businesses using social media, less than one-third of companies have the strategies, policies, and processes in place to meet this demand, according to a report.”

It seems only natural that BtoB companies tend to be slower to embrace social media.  If you fall into the skeptics category, look no further than Greenough’s latest announcement about Virtusa’s social media success. Greenough and Virtusa, a global IT services company that offers a broad spectrum of business consulting and outsourcing services, have developed a successful social media program for the company that has recently been recognized by leading analysts from both Gartner, Inc. and Forrester Research.   The program, which entered the planning stages just a year ago, is not yet ready to compete with the likes of the Old Spice campaign, but is a great example of how a company can get a program up and running in a year.  

You can read more about Greenough’s FUSE™ (Focus, Understand, Strategy, Engage) methodology and Virtusa’s success in the press release, but since we’re all learning as we go with social media (and don’t believe anyone who claims they know it all already), here are a few things we’ve learned along the way: 

1. Listen first: This advice isn’t unique to Greenough, but you’d be surprised how often we see company’s that want to jump right in before looking to see if they’re jumping into water that’s hot, cold or shark-infested.

2. Start small: The more focused your pilot, initial rollout within the company and chosen areas for engagement (if your company touches multiple audiences or technology sectors, for example), the more you can control your efforts and the more rapidly you can adapt to challenges.

3. Build the foundation first: Make sure you create an infrastructure internally that can support the program’s expansion long term.  This is especially important if you follow the previous recommendation to start small.   When you’re focused on a few spokespeople, one or two channels (e.g. Twitter and blogs only), and just a few topic areas, it’s possible to fly by the seat of your pants – and even see success.  But as soon as you start to expand the program (and success breeds success and interest in participation), it’s paramount that you’ve at least planned for a more methodical approach.  For example, it’s not too hard to measure @replies if there’s only one person in the company using Twitter.  But what if that number increase to 30 within a few weeks?  A few key areas to think about for the long-term care and feeding of an enterprise social media program: 

a. Social Media Policies: Who can participate?  What legal obligations do employees have?  Is it a free-for-all or must participation be approved?  What is the response if issues arise?

b. Education and Training:  It’s important that employees be armed with the support tools so that their participation the company’s social media program is both fun for the individual and beneficial to the company.  Don’t assume everyone knows what a hashtag is or that a blog comment is not the best place to talk about your latest sales promotion.  Evaluate employees’ understanding of social medial and then share best practices and hold training sessions accordingly.

c. Organizational Structure:  Who’s in charge?  Who’s responsible for what?  Can HR and customer support run their own programs or does everything flow through a community manager?  Check out my earlier post on organizational structures for more on how different companies might approach these questions.

d. Monitoring and Measurement:  As I’ve written before, your metrics will likely change as your program matures, but social media is no different from any other corporate program that requires (at the very least) an investment of staff time and a little risk: reporting on progress is critical for the survival of the program.

As I mentioned, Virtusa’s program is just a year old, so stay tuned for more lessons and success stories. In the meantime, feel free to share and tips of your or questions!

Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan.