July 08, 2009

Gmail Should be the Hub of Your Company's Social Media Strategy

Back in March, I talked about how you can cleanly separate personal and work social media personalities, and suggested a list of tools that I use to make sure I don't blur the two. But as I talk with companies getting started in the big world of social media, one thing that keeps becoming clear to me is that they need to be using Gmail as the communication hub for their strategy. By using Gmail, companies can centralize all social media-related communication, make it available to third-party vendors who may be participating, and easily integrate with other Google tools.

One of the major hurdles in most companies looking to take on social media for the first time is their need to relax and reduce the amount of control they have over their message and who is engaging. Similarly, for some, the concept of having company-operated data, in the form of e-mail messages, on a third party site, can be daunting. But realities are that often, multiple hands are part of the strategy, and multiple people, including potentially the PR firm, need to be able to log in, making GMail a logical choice.

GMail Helps Manage the Data Onslaught

Additionally, having a Google Account is a requirement for multiple essential parts of one's social media strategy, including access to Google Reader, the creation of a link blog using Google Reader, and to set up FeedBurner for distributing your blog through RSS and tracking statistics.

By logging into the company's Gmail account, you gain immediate access to Google Reader, FeedBurner and Google Analytics, if you are watching your blog statistics closely.

What I recommend companies do is secure an official company Gmail ID and use that as the hub of their social networking activity. Their Twitter and FriendFeed accounts should use that same e-mail, as should YouTube, SlideShare, and other networks. New connection notifications and direct messages should flow through GMail, as should statistical updates, like those from SocialToo (where I am an advisor). Whether you structure the e-mail address as companyinc@gmail.com or companycorp@gmail.com doesn't matter, so long as it's clearly official, and the "From" data is a company name, not that of an individual.

And yes, from there, you can set up labels that automatically push e-mails from specific sources to the equivalent of folders, bypassing the in box. And with GMail, you never need to throw away any e-mail, finding your conversations threaded, and easily searchable.

Of course, Gmail can't solve every account. You still need someone to have a Facebook ID to start a fan page, and Facebook messages reside on Facebook. Similarly, you likely need a Yahoo! ID to use Flickr (if you go that route instead of Picasa). But starting with GMail as your hub makes it that much quicker to log into Google Reader and start sharing links, or click over to your FeedBurner and add new FeedFlares. To not use Gmail would mean either starting a unique account at the office dedicated to social media, or polluting the company address you already have. So if you care about streamlining your process and doing it right, point everything at Gmail.