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Social Media Strategy at VIA Rail

We did a lot of work on our social media strategy at VIA Rail in the first 3/4 of 2011 – of course, we continue to do a lot of work, but this was the heavy lifting required to launch a social media program, internally and externally, at a large national organization. In the last quarter of the year, we presented our strategic approach at a number of events to a wide variety of individuals and organizations.

I’m sharing this presentation so that you can see our approach from last year. For those who are a bit more advanced, I’m sharing some of our results from our participation in Social Media Week Vancouver 2011 (we’re doing Social Media Week Toronto 2012 in February – join us!), and our plan for becoming a “Social Organization”, a vision we have for the company over the next year. Please feel free to share this presentation with your network, and let me know if it helps you get things kicked off, or better yet, moves things into high gear for 2012!

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Social Media Strategists: Make Yourself Obsolete

This is a repost from the old Caffeinated Imagination site, originally dated April 11, 2011. Still relevant today, and in the future! I had mentioned I would talk about the rise of the “social organization” – consider this the set-up post.

It seems very counter-intuitive. Most employees are trying to keep their job by keeping themselves and their skills relevant and important to the organization. My favorite quote from Poolhall Junkies (a classic, look it up!) came from Christopher Walken: “When I was a kid, I figured out right away: most companies pay people enough, so as they don’t quit. People work hard enough so as they don’t get fired. You know, what’s that?”

It’s this delicate dance that employees and employers try to perform. Each tries to keep the other happy and satisfied, while at the same trying to maintain a standard set of expectations. Well, if the rise of social media has taught us anything, it’s that expectations are changing.

In my experience, a social media strategist is the champion of the communication tools and the one-to-one engagement mentality within an organization. They work to unite the various departments and form a common set of social media guidelines and goals. Then, they help design and implement programs and campaigns, teaching others in the company how to set objectives, execute, and then collect the data and metrics needed to evaluate success. Eventually, the hope is that the corporate culture will shift and including social media strategies in everything from hiring new employees to writing RFPs will become second nature.

If the end goal is social media ubiquity within the organization, then it figures that the point of being a social media strategist is to make yourself redundant, unnecessary, obsolete. Sure, you can claim some responsibility for the new corporate mentality and an earth-shaking culture change. But when everyone in the company, from the CEO and board of directors to the nighttime custodian is empowered and educated to participate on behalf of the organization in blogging, YouTube, and Twitter, where does that leave you?

You’ve done your job. Pat yourself of the back and give yourself three cheers! Your dream of having your colleagues finally “get it” has become a reality. They crack out blog posts about their latest product improvement without hesitation, then submit it to a self-curating system where a set of their peers from other departments add their knowledge and participate in 100+ comment discussions with future happy customers. They now know the difference between a “tweet” and a “Like”, between Foursquare and Quora, and with the excellent e-learning courses you helped create, they’ll be ready to teach new employees about all the subtleties of social media.

And now that your work is done. You can move on to bigger and better things! Chief Content Officer? Chief Engagement Officer? Maybe. Or maybe you’ll go off and find another company to revolutionize. But whatever you do, you’ll know that you’ve done your job and made the world a more engaging place.