Interested in learning what companies are looking for with regards to social media help?
When I asked the question “what help do you need with social media,” my informal survey yielded results of two polarized groups, and I added a third …
1) The marketing executive group that knows they need to leverage the power and strength of social media to communicate and converse faster, further, and deeper to their target audience.
2) The group of marketing managers that recognize the value of social media engagement, but are challenged convincing management to participate.
3) While no respondents identified themselves in this group, we must also site those ”who don’t know what they don’t know.”
Almost all that responded basically were asking “where do I start?” They may have phrased this question as “which social media outlets should I use” or something of that flavor, but it almost always pointed back to the same theme.
The “where do I start” need highlights the fact that there is a large gap between marketing executives with many years of professional experience and social media savvy marketers with moderate to few number of years professional experience. Most of the marketing executives realize that they must have a social media strategy and implementation, but either lack social media knowledge and/or fear losing control of their brand and communication have stymied the integration of a social media plan to a marketing plan and implementation. (A previous article in this blog “Brands in the Age of Social Media” addresses the “control” issue.) This creates a strong opportunity for consultants and agencies that are experienced setting strategies, plans and implementation of fundamental marketing endeavors and have a strong knowledge of social media tools. Be cautious of bogus claims here – there is rampant “expert” false advertisement going on.
Must companies serve up a social media strategy and implementation? Well, let me give you some data from a recent Razorfish survey and you be the judge …
“71 percent saying they share a product, service or restaurant recommendation with others online at least every few months. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of respondents report sharing their product views online at least every few weeks, while just 10 percent report making such contributions at least every few days.” (http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/fluent-the-razorfish-social-influence-marketing-report/)
Razorfish’s report also indicates that socialized referrals are more persuasive in purchase decisions than even reward and promotion programs. Convinced yet?
So if you are still reading (meaning you are convinced you need a social media plan), I’ll start by serving up some suggestions:
1) Traditional marketing definitions – know who you are and set realistic marketing communication objectives, (See previous blog “Before You Start with Social Media.”)
2) Listen – before you start communicating. Listen to what others are saying. Understand their demeanor and needs. Join some relevant social networks (i.e. search on ning.com) and network groups (i.e. search groups on LinkedIn.com) specific to your product/service offering. Listen to the ongoing conversations.
3) Participate – engage in the networks and communities you have joined. Do not sell. Have bi-directional conversations and work to establish the perception of being a subject matter expert by delivering valuable information and guidance.
1) Review your “traditional” marketing plan – target market, position, value proposition, competition, communication objectives, SWOT etc.
2) Review what you have learned by “listening.”
3) Understand influencers of your brand.
4) Select social media outlets (blog, networks, audio/video, others) where you provide valued information to engage with influencers and the target audience.
5) Focus on a strategy to traverse potential (and existing) customers from along the “A-path” – Attention, Attraction, Affinity, Audience, Advocacy. (See previous article in this blog “Using the Social Media ‘A-path’ to Capture Ultimate Customers”)
6) Create, discuss, promote, but do not sell. Continue to reinforce perceptions that you are the subject matter expert by delivering valuable information and guidance.
1) Measure – Look at quantifiable marketing results. (Suggested approach in previous article “Measuring the Value of Social Media”)
2) Look at used social media tools, day/time, and market segment result parameters. You will be surprised at clustered data and statistics on views, awareness, and participation. For example, I don’t know why, but Wednesday is always my biggest day for hits on my blog – weekends totally down. Therefore, I try to post on Wednesdays.
3) Control feedback loop – Tweak implementations to play to maximum results from influencers and target audience.
Playing in social media takes time and commitment just like any other marketing effort. Budget appropriate time – don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stay committed to activity just like you would any other important marketing endeavor.
Here are some good “HOW TO: manage Social Media Goals and Expectations” tips at http://mashable.com/2009/07/11/social-media-goals/.
One worry that I have heard numerous times from clients and those that responded to my informal survey deals with “approval” for communicating in social media forums either on behalf of the company or as an employee of the company. You do need to have some editorial control, but not to the extent that it stifles responsible subject matter experts and communicators in your company. Have a set company policy. There are very good suggestions (not an exhaustive list) in an article “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy” (see http://mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts/).
There are risks participating in social media to strengthen your company position and brand, but the risk of not participating is even greater. If your company is to be socialized, don’t you want to influence that socialization as much as possible? Make your social media implementation a calculated risk. After all, isn’t running a business exactly that – a calculated risk?