by Steve Adubato, PhD

Social media has become an effective and efficient way to communicate and stay connected with key stakeholders and customers. However, coordinating the messages being sent by your organization and following up on the feedback you receive can be challenging. In addition, monitoring and measuring the success of your social media efforts is critical to understanding whether your communication game plan is on track.

The New Jersey Devils hockey team has launched an innovative social communication initiative called “Mission Control” that can serve as a potential model for any type of organization. “Mission Control” is a digital command center located inside the Prudential Center that manages and monitors the New Jersey Devils’ social media communication. Five staff members and a team of two-dozen fans, called “Devils Generals”, who are social media savvy, utilize Twitter, Facebook and other online channels to stay connected with Devils fans while extending the organization’s reach and building its fan base.

There are several communication lessons that any business can learn from certain aspects of “Mission Control”, including the following:

--Proactively listen to your customers. It’s critical that you use social media to poll and get feedback from your customers in real time. Then, customize and adapt your message to what current and prospective customers are looking for. Social media is not the same as simply running a static ad and hoping to get a response. Rather, by using social media to truly listen and respond to what your customers are saying, you have the ability to measure whether your message is being received as you had intended or whether you need to tweak your communication based on this instantaneous feedback.

--Have fun when communicating. Social media can help you reach people in a more casual and relaxed environment, which allows you to share information on your product or services without making a hard sales pitch. Too often, when it comes to generating new business, we are consumed with the “ask” or the pressure to “make the deal.” Nothing fun about that for the customer, however, social media can provide an innovative and fun way for your message to reach a broader audience without prospective customers feeling like they are getting the hard sell. Through “Mission Control”, it looks like the New Jersey Devils have figured that out.

--Think relationships, especially long-term ones. In this column I have written extensively about the importance of building an e-database of your current and prospective contacts. “Mission Control” is all about this. Collecting e-mail addresses and using them in a strategic communication fashion can help you foster relationships and share important information. Whether you are announcing a new product or service, or just want to share an interesting article that would be valuable to your network of “friends”, having an up-to-date list of e-mail addresses allows you to communicate in a cost-effective fashion. But remember, good relationships always involve two-way communication, so make sure you create a feedback mechanism in every message you send.

--Connect the dots. While social media is a great way to let others know about you, it can also be used as a powerful cross-promotional and information sharing communication tool for clients, customers and others. Think about it. The Devils don’t only have to talk about the Devils, they can let fans know about some terrific event being sponsored by the American Heart Association or Special Olympics. The idea is to connect causes and organizations through social media and demonstrate that your organization is involved with initiatives that make a difference in the community. This message clearly communicates that your organization doesn’t just care about the bottom line, but also about the larger good. Social media can be an effective tool in connecting these most important dots.