This book is almost a refresher of the Social Media class from Fall 2012. In that class, we had three books we used as references. We read all three books and discussed them before we started our class project. This helped us immensely, once we got into the process of developing a social media plan.
We spent approximately six weeks on the class social media project. Our project was to develop a social media plan for the technical communication online master’s program. We began the project by identifying what we wanted to do. We were given several options for the project, and we agreed as a class to do the social media project for our program.
Our next step was to write our purpose statement. This took a couple of weeks and a bit of work to refine it into a short, concise statement. We then did a thorough analysis of existing information from the MSU, Mankato website, Facebook, the STC blog and other schools with similar programs. After that, one group of students surveyed students in the program and faculty members to get feedback on what our customers really needed.
We developed several different personas, in order to represent the different types of students that are enrolled in the program. The process of writing personas helped us in many ways. It opened our eyes to the different ways in which people use technology and information. It also made us more aware of the different needs and concerns our customers might have. Ultimately, we found out that to be really effective, you first need to be able to listen. Throughout the entire semester, the biggest lesson we learned was to listen to the customer. Doing that ensures a successful website, social media project or customer service experience.
Content strategy is the “method of planning, development and management of informational content” (http://en.wikipedia.org) on an individual company or project basis. Content strategy is applied to web sites, blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook and any other means by which a company wishes to have informational contact with customers and/or the public. In simplest terms, content strategy is project management for content.
I worked in the Information Technology department for a mid-west university several years ago. IT was, and still is, divided into three separate departments under three directors. The Associate Vice Chancellor for IT (at that time, now CIO) started committees, on three separate occasions to try to redesign the IT website. Each time, the committees failed, because they could not come to consensus on a new design.
The fourth time, I volunteered to head a new committee, with members selected by each of the directors and accountable directly to the Associate Vice Chancellor and the directors. We had specific guidelines which used project management principles. Our meetings had detailed agendas and we reported our progress to the directors and Associate Vice Chancellor each week. We had one year to complete our task of redesigning the University’s IT website from the ground up.
Without even having a content strategy book in hand, we applied all of the steps outlined in Chapter 3: inventory current content; define message, media, style and tone; used a style guide; consistent design; and we audited the current content. Our final prototype, ready for populating with data, was rolled out and approved six months after we started. Was it all smooth sailing? No. There were times when discussions got heated. It is difficult to facilitate a group without any authority. Listening was the essential key to keeping everything together. Our methods were nearly identical to those recommended in the content strategy chapter, as well as the Content Strategy book used in the Social Media class taught by Dr. Perbix. Oh, and we had almost no budget with which to work. Our time on the project had to be worked out with our supervisors, around our other duties. Additional assistance from SMEs had to be negotiated. It was a gratifying project, but hard won. In the end, we completed the task six months ahead of schedule and with the full support of the entire department and leadership.