Social Media Road Trip

Mike MacEachern    April 3, 2017

Your whole enterprise social media strategy should be simple and practical.  It should complement the overall organizational goals, but it deserves its own plan and measurable objectives.  I have been through numerous planning processes where the end result is a plan and no action.  Why did that occur?  I think it happens because many planning sessions fail to start with the end in mind.  Much like a trip, the first thing to know is where you want to go. If you don’t know where you are going how will you ever know that you have arrived?  Seems pretty simple but many planning processes are started chasing the latest craze without any regard to what the business is actually trying to achieve.  Given the benefits of social media and its exponential growth in business use, it is hard not to get caught up in trying to implement social media quickly.  Why wouldn’t you want to try to reap the benefits enjoyed by so many other organizations and businesses?  Well, with some patience and planning you will be able to gather better results and more importantly avoid potential costly issues.


A company’s greatest assets are its employees.  One of the main benefits of social media in the workplace is that it promotes understanding and teamwork.  There is no one size fits all approach and no single right way to implement social media in a workplace.  In a Society for Human Resource Management toolkit, I came across “Managing and Leveraging Workplace Use of Social Media”.  This article outlines how businesses can use social media for a variety of purposes in increasing the effectiveness of their workplaces.  Recruitment both formally and informally can benefit from the use of social media.  An interesting recruitment approach in the article was posting a particular technical problem and then contacting respondents who provided the best answers to see if they had an interest in pursuing employment with your business.  The article goes on to outline the advantages for employee engagement, building your brand through external conversations, and building learning opportunities.  Social media in the organization also allows for harnessing internal expertise and applying this to solve issues in other parts of the organization without having to hire external consultants.   What is very helpful in this article, which I had not found in many other articles, was that it also identified some potential risks.  These risks could include exposing your network to potential attack, and employees potentially distributing confidential information or misusing business social media channels causing enormous damage to the company brand.  There is also a host of legal issues that need to be addressed as the lines between an employee’s work life and personal life becomes increasingly blurred.  Claims could be made that human resource actions taken were not based on the individual’s workplace behaviour but rather on information learned by the employer through the individual’s personal channels.  Who owns the social network the employee develops?  Awareness of both the risks and rewards of social media is important in moving forward with a plan.  This understanding will help you to determine which tools should be used to minimize risk and which internal groups should be the main communicators with which customer group.


So where to start when developing a social media strategy?  In the article “How To Build a Social Media Strategy That Works” author Jeff Foster outlines these steps:

  • Understand your goals as you need to know what you are trying to achieve.
  • Create S.M.A.R.T. objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.) Identify the tools you will use to track progress toward these objectives.
  • Understand your audience and their needs.
  • Look at what your competition is doing and how they are doing it. You are both trying to capture the same customer.  What are they saying to the target group, how are they saying it and what are their key messages.
  • Develop your key messages at a very high level; you can break the messages down later. This is the brand image you are trying to create for each of your customers.
  • Choose your channels.
  • Build a content plan that is a mix of infographics, videos, images and content to engage with your customer.

With endless ideas and possibilities available for your social media tactics, it can be difficult to decide how to proceed.  Lanoue in the article “How To Create an Extraordinary Social Media Strategy for 2017” describes the importance of aligning social media goals with overall organization goals.  Breaking these goals into specific tactics, assigning tasks, setting timelines, and continually analyzing and adapting your plan as you go.   The article also describes a simple model created by  Jim Semick founder of ProductPlan in order to prioritize your tactics.  The model has 3 simple steps:

  1. Evaluate how much value I expect a tactic will bring in business.
  2. Evaluate how much effort each tactic will take and how complex it is to execute.
  3. Prioritize the highest value tactics that require the least effort and complexity.


While thinking about how to create the overall social media strategy for FOCUS, I had the opportunity to interview Eric Riehl a Social Media Specialist from the Corporate office at Metroland Media.  Metroland publishes over 100 community newspapers in Ontario that span from London to Ottawa.  Further, they have strong ties with the communities they serve.   Many of the community newspapers that Metroland manages date back more than a century.   The first thing Eric indicated is that all the newsrooms across the communities that Metroland serves manage their social media channels independently.  Corporate develops best practices and the overall strategy but it is up to each site to operationalize the plan.  “There is no one size fits all social media plan for each of their news sites.  There is a need for each of their sites to listen to their customers and develop content that meets that particular group of customers needs.”  For instance, they have huge sites like The Hamilton Spectator with a huge following (33,370 followers on Facebook for instance) to the New Hamburg Independent (1,253 followers on Facebook) which has a much smaller community with a couple of staff members to handle that paper. Each of these communities has different needs and different levels of resources to execute plans.   An important part of any news site and what keeps them in business is their customer reach.  Each site is responsible for monitoring their social traffic and Metroland Corporate is also monitoring the site traffic.    If Metroland Corporate office starts to see a particular older news item gathering a great deal of traffic in one of their communities they start by identifying if the story is one of theirs.  If so, they alert the local office and work with them to promote that article using keywords to try to extend the reach of the news article and by extension the community news site.  I asked Eric if he had tips for those developing a strategy.  He said again, much like their business, there is no one size fits all approach for developing a social media plan.  “It is important that there is a plan as you need to think about what you are trying to achieve.  Identifying any risks of social media use is also important.   Given that Metroland has 100s of sites independently running their social media sites they have to be cognizant of the risks associated with this strategy and the potential influence on the overall Metroland brand.”  He said “the most important part is to listen to your audience to engage in conversations with your customers.  You need to know what they want and how they want to be communicated with which will allow you to develop a plan to meet their needs.”


Lessons for Others

  • It is important to develop a simple practical plan in order to have success.  Overly complex plans that are difficult to operationalize are not likely to meet with success.
  • You need to develop a good understanding of your customer and their needs.  Next, develop the strategies and tactics to meet those needs.  The last step is to pick the tools that best allow you to meet your objectives.  The tools shouldn’t drive the strategies and tactics.
  • Once you know what you are trying to achieve develop the measures that will inform you as to whether your actions are moving you towards success.
  • I think of a social media strategy, and it was likened in one of the articles as a road trip.  Start by deciding where you are trying to get to.  Point yourself in the right direction and choose your route.  Decide what method of transportation (tools) you are going to use.  Check in regularly and don’t be afraid to change your route as you learn things along the way.  Most importantly try to have a little fun.

Organization: Metroland Media
Industry: News Media
Name of Organization Contact: Eric Riehl

Authored by: Mike MacEachern

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Society for Human Resource Management (2016, Jan. 19) Managing and Leveraging Workplace Use of Social Media retrieved from

Foster, J. (2015, May 12) How to Build a Social-Media Strategy That Works, Entrepreneur retrieved from

Lanoue, S. (2017, Jan. 20) How to Create an Extraordinary Social Media Strategy for 2017, Buffer Social retrieved from