Our office recently caught a wicked case of basketball fever, mainly because GroundFloor Media Vice President Ramonna Tooley’s Alma Mater, Butler University, continued to take down larger and higher-ranked opponents during the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
After Butler secured a spot in the Final Four, one question from a co-worker caught my attention, “Is this normal? How does this smaller team keep beating these high-profile teams?” In hindsight the answer is very similar to describing how smaller companies can utilize social media to compete with much larger companies:
1) A Cohesive Team
Butler may not have the same caliber of players as a Syracuse or a Duke, but their athletes play really well together, and everyone knows their role – they follow The Butler Way. Similarly, many larger companies have issues with how to manage social media. Some of the most effective social media outreach comes from those companies who understand that social media should be as organic as possible. For some companies like Seattle’s Discovery Wellness Center, that means allowing one or two individuals to serve as the “voice” of the company, and all messages are filtered accordingly (in their case, it’s the CEO). Others like Zappos understand that all employees should have voice, and everyone can contribute equally. The first step is ensuring that everyone is on the same page, and then ensuring that everyone knows their role and executes flawlessly. This can sometimes be much easier to accomplish with a smaller staff or fewer departments.
2) A Solid Game Plan
You’re going to have a hard time winning if you don’t have a good plan in place. Butler’s players knew their match-ups, recognized strengths and weaknesses, and everyone knew where they should be on each play. Companies who integrate their social media plans into their traditional marketing and public relations programs are going to have a larger opportunity for success. Similarly, does your company have a social media response/crisis plan? Does everyone on your social media team know what constitutes a proper response or the best way to take a customer issue offline? There are a few recent examples of how things can turn bad quickly for companies if you don’t have that plan in place.
Butler may not have six former McDonald’s All-Americans on their team (as Duke does), but they do have several players who can be relied upon to step up and play to that level. It’s just as important for companies to bring their social media talent to the forefront. I’m personally not a proponent of Twinterns, but “social media experts” will only have 4-5 years of experience with social media due to its newness compared to other components within the public relations discipline. That might be the 15-year veteran who was an early adopter, or it could be the 24-year-old who also has a keen sense for overall communications. Regardless, make sure you’re putting your best players in the game.
4) A Little Luck
A couple of inches were all it would have taken for that half-court, last-second shot to go in and change the National Championship game. And maybe the timing of a Tweet or the right influencer seeing your blog post at the right time could make all of the difference in your social media efforts. But putting the right tools in place and having a solid plan put mid-major Butler in the same company as Duke, West Virginia and Michigan State, all powerhouse programs from the “Big 5” athletic conferences. Social media offers the same type of opportunities for smaller companies trying to compete with much larger marketing and public relations budgets.