Here is the process I offered them for developing and writing these plans. It can be used internally by staff, or externally (as in the students' cases) as a consultant with a partner organization. There are three parts: the institution or initiative's content and audience goals, the institution's assets, and the project concept that will match goals to resources in an achievable way. In most cases, parts 1 and 2 were discussed in a meeting as background research, and then the project idea (part 3) was presented back by the project developer for feedback from the larger team. It turned out well, and I hope it's useful for you.
Part 1: Define your goals.
- What is this institution or initiative all about? Who is the target audience? These questions should focus and filter your planning more than anything else.
- What kind of new relationships is the institution seeking? How would the institution like to alter or strengthen its relationship with the target audience? What kind of relationship is sought? Relationship types may include: broadcasting, spreading, listening, sharing, embracing, energizing, supporting, research, exchange, conversation… Ideally, you will pick one or two relationships that seems appropriate to the mission and goals, although institutions that are looking at comprehensive media plans may need documentation and ideas in several relationship buckets.
- What resources (time, money, and people) does the institution have to support this effort? What rules or control issues may prevent certain kinds of interactions? What are they already doing, what have they tried, and where are they now? These questions should help you define a reasonable scope for the project and hone in on some tactics that may be more appropriate than others.
- What is the institution's intent with regard to its desired audience? How will they manage, grow, and respond to their newly energized communities? You need to make sure you are recommending something that the institution can honestly, enthusiastically, and appropriately manage in the context of their work processes etc. This is very hard to ascertain from the outside, but asking questions like, “what will you do with visitors’ contributions?” or “what will you do if someone posts something that is inaccurate?” can help.
- Share your brilliant ideas. What are you recommending and why?
- What are the startup needs? What will the institution have to do to get this going?
- What is the promotion plan? How can the institution reach out to the target audience?
- What are the maintenance needs? What will the institution have to do to keep it going?
- What is the evaluation plan? How will this project be tracked and tested against the goals? How will you establish benchmarks and a starting baseline?
Upon review of the final social media plans, I was particularly impressed by the extent to which the students really took to heart the specific resources and constraints of their client museums to create realistic, achievable (and creative!) plans. For example...
- Jill Hardy worked with a museum that is trying to attract a younger, more diverse adult audience. Recognizing that the museum is situated in a highly walkable, hip neighborhood full of representatives of the target audience, she recommended a highly localized campaign that gets the museum thinking "like a neighbor" and becoming a cultural block party/bbq hub for a tight geographic area.
- Nicole Robert worked with a new institution that would like to deepen relationships with members and energize continued membership sign-ups online. Noting that the museum is at a very early stage in development and is still learning about its' audiences' needs (and getting their feet wet on the Web), she recommended a three-phase plan for both internal online skills development and external audience research and pilot projects.
- Kylie Pine worked with a small, traditional history museum very unfamiliar with social media but interested in embarking on online discussion. She tied each digital idea to a physical concept with a well-understood historical significance, such as a time capsule and a hope chest.
- Erin Milbeck worked with an innovative art space that has had a hard time attracting local audiences in a suburb fairly unfamiliar with contemporary art. She combined the challenge of limited time resources and the asset of a huge downtown storefront to recommend a window sign strategy that would introduce people to the space via text messaging.
- Kathryn Fromson worked with a traveling exhibit developer who would like to connect audiences at different venues to each other and to online environmental information related to sustainable choices. She developed a physical take-home piece that connects any version of the traveling exhibit to a centralized website with both local and shared resources.