Be smart and selective. "Avoid the 'shiny object' syndrome," Stokoe cautioned. For example, he is often asked why the company doesn't have a presence on Pinterest. His response is Caterpillar's customer base is roughly 80% male and 20% female; the Pinterest demographic is 80% female and 20% male. For CAT, the math doesn't add up – at least not until the demographics shift.
Be willing to experiment. Find out whether and what types of social media your customers are using, then be willing to take the plunge. That said, it's equally important to gauge the results of those efforts.
"Think about what you're doing with a new channel or platform," Stokoe advised. "How do you define your success criteria?" Make sure you have the leverage to pull the plug if it's not providing value.
Take advantage of "thought leaders"
Social media engagement can be taken to the next level by getting subject matter experts, or "thought leaders", involved. "We rely on CAT experts to be the face of the company," Stokoe said. "The people behind the logo are the experts."
Subject matter experts within your organization can be a valuable resource to promote your brand, services or expertise. Examine your customer base to identify the best approach to get their thoughts and faces out to the market and develop their following. Available options can include industry discussions, online forums, blogs, etc.
It's important, however, to avoid sending these individuals out into the wilderness without guidance. "It comes down to management of the editorial planning and coordination," Stokoe stated. "Look at the journalism role as critical to make sure the content is presentable (on target)."
Put guidelines in place
You can undermine your social media efforts and damage your brand in a heartbeat if you fail to have guidelines on what should – and should not – be posted in your company's name. Stokoe cited the KitchenAid Twitter debacle as an unfortunate example.
Caterpillar offers training and documentation to all of its employees and dealers to ensure consistent messaging and to outline social media procedures. It also has thorough documentation on how corporate representatives should react to problems or situations that may arise.
There is also a "SWAT" team in place. "It's a group that can get together quickly to develop a message or response to whatever happens," said Stokoe.