2010 is not going to be the year of social media. 2010 is going to be the year of relationships. Yes, it will be the social media toolset that invigorates relationships. There is a subtle mindset that will separate winners and losers.
At the end of last year I had a conversation with a senior executive about bringing a social media strategy to his global company. Referring to his colleagues, he said, “We have to make them understand that social media is more than just Twitter and Facebook.” Social media is not about catching the hype of Twitter and Facebook, but connecting with your customers and building relationships. There should be a social media strategy and plan before jumping on the bandwagon!
The strategy must be about building relationships with potential customers, and strengthening relationships with existing customers. Do not think of social media as an advertising and promotion vehicle, but rather a relationship builder. How do you build relationships in your personal life? Transfer this “skill set” to your professional social media activity.
Social media is often viewed as a marketing endeavor. For the most part this makes sense, but I would not limit social media to being in the hands of the marketing group. When I think of social media, I am reminded of a quote many years back from David Packard (cofounder of HP) – “Marketing is far too important to leave to the marketing department.”
Social media = customer relationships. Thus, social media is not just a “marketing thing.” In a company, who is concerned with customer relationships? Hopefully you answered everyone. This means that every department should have visibility to the social media program and provide information or monitor activities related to their domain expertise with a focus on how their functional area affects relationships with customers.
If you want a winning social media program – the owner of the social media program in your company must design a program that is customer-centric. They should not focus on advertising, promotion, and certainly not selling. Relationship building in a social media context is about traversing your customer along the “A-Path” – Attention > Attraction > Affinity > Audience > Advocate, as I have previous written about.
Bottom line – use social media to build strong relationships. People usually buy things from people they feel comfortable with. Reinforce your customers’ buying decisions by continuously delivering valuable information through social media outlets in your brand domain expertise. This will build loyal relationships and ultimately turn your customers into advocates – the strongest marketing engine possible.