Social Media – Executives Got Questions, I Got Answers

Yes, social media is still very much misunderstood – executives included. When I first joined HFM US (brands include ELLE, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, etc.), I did a presentation for the CEO and other executives defining social media, vision, and realistic objectives. Since that time, there have been a number of changes in the company C-Suite including the area in my reporting structure. So I am getting asked these questions again.

While the interrogation may bother some, I think it is a really good thing. Not just because I want all to understand social media from a realistic perspective, beyond hype and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) at both ends of the spectrum, but even more importantly, as a marketing executive setting social strategy and executing initiatives, it is imperative to remember the “why”. I’ve been working on a number of things for a number of brands, educating and grinding away. It is critical for me to pick up my head from the chaotic world and re-look at the mission and objectives to make sure our strategy is actually addressing exactly what you set out to do. As fast as technology is moving and rapidly changing, and new “shiny objects” glow with enticement, you gotta make sure the cool stuff you’re doing supports a set mission and objectives.

So as I am going through this exercise now, I share with you my mission and objectives. Obviously, I need to be general and not specific here so as to protect the interest of my employer. But I’ll certainly provide a framework that should allow you to shape social media in your organization.

So let’s get right to it. Here is the mission of social media:

Engage with the target audience to create deeper relationships such that advocates are created to share brand content and provide measurable value to brand and/or advertisers.”

That’s it. That’s the mission. But the devil is in the detail. Let’s parse this apart just a bit. First, social media is about engagement with audience. It is not about selling. You are looking to generate awareness and increase qualified leads. If you engage appropriately, you build deeper relationships. Relationships that ultimately buy when they are ready. And some of these relationships produce advocates – people that spread the good word on your behalf (often called word-of-mouth marketing).

Now let’s get to the part that brings so many trouble – measurable value. Let’s cut the BS and really look at what this means. The measurable value comes from parameters that are distinctively attributable to social media activities. Set the right KPIs (key performance indicators). And by the way, sales is not one of them.

The right KPIs should become your social media objectives. Are you growing the consumption of your content? (Yes, products should have associated content.) Are you increasing the opting-in for brand? By this I mean the number of followers, fans, members of community, subscribers, etc. that you have. Are you seeing an increase in engagement from your fans/followers/subscribers? Are they commenting more? Talking to you more? Talking to their friends about your brand more? Is your brand content being shared and are you seeing growth in this area? These are the types of real objectives you should have and it is up to you to explicitly state relevant KPIs. I really like something an executive said to me about stating the social media objectives … “Objectives must be quantified; otherwise they are only aspirations.” Are you aspiring to get something done or are you going to “make it happen.”

Yes – there are more questions to answer. I am defining specific objectives that align to the mission and make sense for each of the brands. But for this post, I’ll stop here. Does this give you a social media path? (I’d really like to hear whether or not from you.)

So the next executive question is “Where does social media fit in the organization?” And that is another topic/question that so many are having a hard time grasping. I covered this one six months ago. Check out “Where Social Media Fits in Your Organization.”

Got questions? I got answers. I am here to help. Let’s do this right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve



Filed under brand marketing, brands, marketing plan, measuring social media, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Social Media – Executives Got Questions, I Got Answers

  1. Interesting Steve, I am seeing and hearing many people at the moment who seem a little dazed at what to do. After the progression of last year there seems to be a stumble in peoples steps, as ever you’re right on the ball in defining the initial stages of social media.

    One thing I think people and businesses need to concentrate on now is not the next big thing but simply their own journey and mission in connecting with their customer/client/friend/follower etc. Those relationships need to be there long term whatever technology online or offline we use to maintain engagement.

    Thanks for being there.

  2. Mark – good guidance – thanks.

  3. Keith

    What a lot of people don’t realize (especially in the restaurant and hotel sector) is that Social media is REAL TIME. Think of it as breaking news or breaking sports. People are talking about your hotel or restaurant as they are there. Forget the comment cards that you stick in a suggestion box, that
    may not be read for weeks or months at a time.
    Get on board now before the train leaves the track.

  4. Yet another great post, Steve, that drills right into the core of business participation in social media. Great quote on how “objectives must be quantified, otherwise they are only aspirations.” That’s one I’d like to borrow!

    Anyway, I couldn’t agree with you more! A few months ago, I was fortunate to be involved in Lift Summit: the B2B Social Commerce Summit where the theme of the conference looked at social approaches that companies can use to drive sales in B2B. While the conversations led to exploring the effects of flash sales sites like Groupon and trends in social shopping, it always came back to listening and developing metrics around what’s being said, which is the core foundation for any marketing strategy. By listening and interacting both with one’s own brand, benchmarking against the competition, and the key piece being quantifying the results (to gain intelligence from the data) businesses are better positioned to develop and execute a social strategy to monetize these efforts.

    So, delving into meaningful metrics like velocity, reach and brand affinity are crucial to business because it can make or break a brand. We’ve seen it firsthand and actually built a business where we do just that! 🙂


    • Ilona – thanks. When we speak of “meaningful metrics like velocity, reach and brand affinity,” we must be more specific to the point of what we are actually measuring and putting of a dashboard to see results. I typically boil this down to mentions, interactions, sharing (retweet, reblog, mentions), social reach (still determining the best definition/tool – so many proprietary ones out there now), and relationships (members of a community, fans/followers) etc.

      Are there others you want to recommend here?


  5. Your list is a set of meaningful metrics, Steve. The challenge for companies is to align them with dollars and cents RoI. It seems like new metrics pop-up daily. We feel that basing new media metrics on traditional measures of success help companies make that connection.

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