How many Fortune 1000 companies have a Social Media Strategy? Better yet, how many of those will fail in the next year? These are questions worth asking as the future success of these campaigns depends on separating the buzz from what provides lasting value to brands.
Along these lines we wanted to share what we’ve been hearing lately from our clients. They have heard that their competition is using Social Media and are interested in the potential, but during these times they are coming back to the same question: “How does Social Media help me: grow my business/increase sales/cut costs?”
Of course this is eminently justifiable as the benefits have to be tangible and understandable to executives in order to get approval to move ahead in concert with other initiatives that are currently underway.
Here’s what we have learned (so far):
- Need buy in from the top. There will likely not be the same level of participation from the top but with the right set of guidelines, executives can see that participation from company staff can actually help build customer engagement with the brand.
- Need an internal culture to support it. Executives must understand that the conversation about their brand and products is taking place whether or not they participate. Lack of participation is not going to stop conversations from happening and may in fact lead to missed opportunities to shape the dialog.
- Understand that it’s not the tools but the topics. It should be the substance of the conversation which should be the focus. Tools change, but customers have issues that need to be heard and there is a great opportunity to get previously unmet customer needs out of the dialog if you co-ordinate this data with other channels.
- People don’t live and breath your products. Unless you are RIM or maybe APPLE you have to consider your products in the context of the customer’s lives; how they enable customers to meet (or exceed) their needs. The conversations should be real and not just marketing jargon. Customers can see beyond language that doesn’t relate to their experience.
- Need to go beyond click-thrus and impressions to measure overall brand engagement. Executives must be prepared that it might not increase transactions in immediate short term but will allow a new dialog with customers. What does this mean? If someone engages with a brand on a social media site then recommends your product to others on their blog should you say your website failed? Of course not. It must be one component of the overall mix.
- Measure measure measure. Based on your overall objectives and also the objectives of your other partners in the value chain you need to use metrics that have relevance to your business – metrics that executives understand.
- Need to dedicate resources to this as an ongoing initiative. Just doing it for a short term won’t produce desired results over long term. There’s a need to understand and implement compatible compensation structure to reward success to make sure that this doesn’t go the way of other “buzz-word” tactics.
- Consider it as part of current marketing mix. It should not be thought of as standing alone, or as a replacement to current initiatives (see excellent post by @tamera)
- Understand current customer viewpoints on products and services. In order to start finding ways to engage customers, review existing customer needs insight and if necessary look at re-examining ways to get deep customer needs back into the organization.
- Tweak and build feedback loop to continually improve the initiative.
And don’t fret if it doesn’t immediately take off. No matter what anyone says, nobody has this totally figured out yet…