It is tough out there isn’t it? 2010 looks like an upswing year; it seems like everyone is talking about social media, Twitter, Facebook, and all; and you are trying to figure out how to leverage the new media to drive business results. You find yourself asking, “What are we going to do and who do I put in charge?”
Before we answer the question directly for social media leadership, let’s review leadership at your company for a second …
Who leads the strategy and execution to meet various business opportunities and challenges at your company now? I would guess you look for people that have business experience and have a track record of driving business results. Someone who understands the target market you serve, the influencer of that audience, has an understanding of what that target segment values, knows the competition, carves out differentiation, knows how to communicate effectively to drive brand awareness, and someone who drives innovation to maintain industry leadership and customer loyalty. Sounds like the CMO or marketing leader to me.
So now back to social media … I know, your CMO doesn’t really understand social media. To make it even more confusing we all see some of the social media players as snake oil salespersons, MLM schemers, or good honest people that are sharp as can be on social media, but a little green with regards to business and driving product/service revenue and profit. Heck, maybe you have even seen “The Social Media Guru” YouTube video … this certainly does not paint a good picture. But then again, everyone is getting on Twitter and Facebook and you know you need to as well. What to do? What to do?
Let me help a bit because I understand this social media thing can be overwhelming with regards to where to start. First off, I strongly suggest that you look to someone with sound business experience either with significant experience taking your product/service to market or with strong marketing communication skills. This is imperative, because you need a marketing/product/communication plan, as always, first. Social media should be viewed as an important part of your customer interfacing, marketing, and conversation (not just communication) channel. Social media is not a separate “thing”. It is another element that MUST be integrated into the entire business/marketing plan. The social media game plan needs to be owned by your marketing leader – it can not simply be handed to an intern to fill in the gaps.
Once you have selected your leader you should expect, demand of them, that they use continuous innovation to capture market leadership. Today that innovation is social media; tomorrow it will likely be something else. But leaders need to stay students for life, constantly leveraging their rich experience and continuing to learn what their domain area has to offer.
That said, I would like to share with you a few places/people I have learned from recently that have helped me to leverage my marketing, product marketing, and product management experience to drive results with social media. I am a perpetual student and always seeking people and places I can learn from. There is no shortage of places or people for me to thank for things I’ve learned about social media, but these few really rank tops:
Groundswell – Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book is a full comprehensive look at social media, complete with case studies, alignment to existing business principles and practices, statistics, theories, and understandable explanations. The book was written two years ago. Many other books have been written since, but from what I have seen, no book has anything dramatically different to say or explain. It started with Groundswell and Li and Bernoff’s book is one I recommend. It will provide a most complete understanding of social media, influence your mentality and approach to implementation, and provide a solid basis.
Now you have your foundation and are ready. You want to set a plan and implement “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel”. In my blog, I have suggested the LCR Mentality, things you need to do “Before You Start with Social Media”, and even provided an “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media”. But I give credit to Brian Solis for his guidance to answering the question, “What social media outlets do I use?” Brian has an excellent approach to help you determine where you get the most bang for buck (or time investment) when you look at social media outlets. (While Twitter and Facebook get the most hype, they may not return the best results, OR may require other social media outlets to produce great synergy maximizing results.) Check out Solis’ “The Conversation Prism v2.0”.
As I mentioned, you can not stay stagnant; stay ahead of the curve; know where things are going. This requires continuous participation in the social media forums and communities you find most helpful. But if you want a very thought provoking and insightful look at the evolution of the social web, I strongly suggest you read “The Future of the Social Web” by Jeremiah Owyang who was a Forrester analyst at the time the report was released. The report is not cheap, but there is a very good free overview called “The Five Eras of the Social Web” that is very informative by itself.
Social media is an extremely powerful toolset. Yes, there are many out there looking to cash in on a much hyped trend that give social media a bad name. But if you look to put social media leadership and management in the hands of an experienced, proven leader that stays current to maximize company and professional standings you will see winning measurable business results. Just think who you trust and who you want to give the keys to your business.