Managing Social Media Evolution: Our Work for the Michael J. Fox Foundation & The St.Gallen MBA.

Managing social media within small to mid-size companies requires ongoing optimization. Depending on how slow or fast an organization was to embrace social media, determines where they find themselves today. Many companies, for example, who were quick to implement Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels, now find themselves faced with the challenge of harmonizing their brands appearance, and developing a cohesive strategy for each channel.

Likewise, companies who quickly added “Like” and “Twitter” buttons to the bottom of their website pages now face the challenge of creating fully integrated “Share” functionality without the delay and cost of a complete website redesign. Finally, are the brands who, having already experienced how critical social media has become for their businesses, begin to integrate it more fully into their core website, and marketing activities.

At whatever stage an organization finds itself in implementing social media, managing the evolution of these programs is of huge strategic importance to their businesses, and also an organizational challenge related to manpower and financial resources.  Our recent work for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and The St.Gallen MBA gave us great insights into the challenges small to mid-size organizations face to make the most of social media.

1. Define Your Strategy, Align Your Social Media Channels

For The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research social media has quickly become an extremly active community with over 20,000 fans across two primary FB pages, the Official Foundation FanPage and Team Fox, a grassroots community of Parkinson’s sufferers, caregivers, supporters and the medical community. The Foundation, however, has clear business objectives focussed on raising funds for Parkinson’s research.  And concern had arisen that the disparent presence was hindering these objectives.

In order to refocus their efforts we zeroed in on the role of Social Media for the Foundation, and defined specific roles for each of their platforms. We created a consistent branding concept across the official pages.  The design elements include a single avatar, consistent background, and navigation structure across the FaceBookYouTubeTwitter and Tumblr blog.

Each social media channel has a clearly defined role.  On Facebook, for examples, we created a central hub for foundation activity under the title „Get Involved“, which drives people to the main website.  Fundraising is presented clearly and facilitated under a FB tab „Donate Now.“ The new Tumblr blog delivers behind-the-scenes photos and videos from fundraising events.

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2. Integrate Social Media Functionality to Your Existing Website

Like many organizations, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research website was designed before it was clear how strong a role social media would play.  Simple links to Facebook or Twitter, added in an ad hoc manner, had become insufficient, yet a full site redesign is clearly a large undertaking both strategically and financially, especially for a non-profit organization.

In order to help manage this transition we advised them to take an intermediate step, and work to integrate social media icons into their current site by updating key html templates including „Share“, „Like“, „Tweet“ functionality.  We created a standard set of icons, with the line “connect with us”, and placed it across four key page templates, including the “homepage”, a standard “landing page”, the “News & Events” page and a standard “text page”.

3. Host Your Community on Your Website, The Full Site Redesign

Ultimately, while sites like FaceBook and YouTube are powerful tools for companies and brands, it is a mistake to rely on them too heavily as destinations in themselves.  The early trend for companies to build robust Facebook fanpages resulted, in some cases, with declining site traffic on their own primary websites.  Increasingly, many brands are concerned about controlling their brand experience, and importantly having consumer data, when 3rd party platforms are relied upon too heavily.

Last year, our client The St.Gallen MBA recognized the amount of activity their students and alumni were engaging in, independantly, on Facebook.  Like all businesses, University MBA programs have their own unique goals and challenges.  Among them is the dynamic of recruiting candidates from around the world, over an extended 1-2 year time frame.  Then, after completing their programs, MBA alumni are extremely interested in all networking opportunities, including online communities.  These forces combine to create a large, active and international community of St.Gallen MBA prospects, students and alumni, all of whom actively seek out the program online

In a first phase implementation, The St.Gallen MBA sought to create a formal home for this community on FaceBook and began using Twitter as a way to spread MBA relevant news.  And, towards the end of the year, we developed a program whereby 5 students blog throughout their 2 year MBA program.  Finally, Faculty and administration blogs have been added as well.

In 2011 we redesigned the complete site, with an eye towards the seamless integration of social media.  Live feeds from Twitter, News and Blogs are prominent on the homepage.  As well, we worked to provide as much community content on the actual site itself in a community center and video portal, reducing the need for visitors to leave our site to visit FaceBook YouTube etc.  In this way, people who are on The St.Gallen MBA website, and want to watch videos, for example, can do so without having to go to YouTube, where they can then be distracted away from the brand or brought to competitive content from other University programs.

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