Our Thinking

Fostering Relationships with your Stakeholders

To achieve a particular objective, organizations will often invest in a focused campaign. One that has a beginning, middle, and end.  Its results can be measured and when the results come back, it will either be a success, or it will not.  Sadly, the question of could the campaign have done better rarely get asked.  Even more rarely asked is should we have invested somewhere completely different?

During a campaign, there is one group that is often taken for granted: external partners.  This can be members, volunteers, suppliers, media, or any other stakeholder outside of the organization.  These groups are all assumed to be expertly capable with social media, completely up-to-date with your messages, and perfectly aware of their key role in helping move common goals forward.

However, nothing is further from the truth.  Many external partners are too busy with their own problems to be concerned with yours.  If they do have some degree of social media knowledge, it is likely focused on achieving their goals – not yours.

Building downstream capacity means helping external partners/stakeholders be more effective using social media to achieve their objectives.  Once more educated, they will be equipped – and more open – to using social media to help you achieve your objectives.  Unlike campaigns, the return on this investment is cumulative: as they become more fluent with social media, and become more comfortable with your organization, they will become ever-stronger advocates and ambassadors.

Example ideas to improve downstream capacity:

  • Blog post or magazine article on the subject
  • Gamification: leaderboards and other mechanisms to encourage/identify/reward participation
  • Webinars on the subject
  • Half-day seminars on the subject
  • Keynote presentation at a conference on how they can use social media to achieve their objectives
  • Development of a no-cost social media resource toolkit that shares ideas on the subject
  • Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) discussions on the subject

Sometimes an argument is made that it isn’t “the role of the organization” to build capacity externally.  We disagree fundamentally with this, as building downstream capacity amplifies the effective execution of all of the organization’s social media initiatives.  Even if the argument were true, building downstream capacity is still the responsibility of the organization for one simple reason:  risk mitigation.

This week, before building downstream capacity, reach out to your primary external partner (members, agents, clients, etc) and ask them what they might want.