Start skiing without ski poles. Start horseback riding without a saddle. Yes you can do these activities without some of the fundamentals, but what do you think the likelihood for success is?
And what about social media? Do you really think your company can be successful if they are not social or are adverse to it to begin with? If your company is questioning social media, the first thing I would look at is your willingness for open dialog. Test: Are you willing to allow your audience to post open comments on your site or digital presence? If not – it is just FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Here is why …
1) Today’s social world is growing way beyond digital natives. Every target segment’s adoption is growing. They are talking about many things, including your product/service, whether you like it or not. You might as well invite them to have a conversation with you rather than talking behind your back.
2) “What if they say something bad about us?” I hear this all the time. My answer – if it is true, correct it and then respond back noting what has been fixed or changed. You will earn an advocate. I have seen this happen with one of my brands because they were bold enough to invite conversation and engage. If it is not true, your real supporters will come to your defense.
3) Yes there are some crazed individuals with some sort of bug up their butt that look to hurt your brand reputation. Yes we are giving a platform to speak. But once again – more often than not, your community comes to your rescue and that is powerful.
I see too many people looking for the wrong outcomes from social media and thus nay-saying it. IT IS A SOCIAL THING. It needs to be said again and again. Social media is not another form of advertising. You can not expect the same outcomes from social media that you expect with advertising. Yes – social media integrated with a paid media strategy and execution is extremely powerful. (See “Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media“.) There is a recent study that suggests that social media has little impact on online retail purchases. You want to know why the results are poor – because this is looking at social media as an advertising channel.
Let me put it this way. Do you ever remember telling someone you know about a great product, restaurant, service … something of this nature? Did the person immediately respond and buy something based on the recommendation or did they react a little later? Why are we looking at reports that measure immediate actions from social initiatives?
Socialize. Talk to your audience. Start out conversing with a few and get the conservation rolling. Learn something from them. Thank your supporters. Find out what is bugging those that have uncomplimentary things to say. This is how you will cultivate advocates that become your word-of-mouth marketing. This is what we should measure – word-of-mouth marketing. While it is difficult to tie advocacy to purchase, I have zero hesitation stating there is a correlation.
Social media DOES turn results – long term results. (See “Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term.)” And if you want to see incremental results along the way that pay off in the long run see “Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel.” It comes down to what we are counting.
Let me give you a personal example. This weekend, I traveled a little distance to be with a friend at a funeral for one of his close family members. I did it because I have a strong relationship with this person built up over time. I would not do this for just anybody. The “being there” happens in time, not necessarily immediately, because of a relationship we have built up. I guarantee you that if you treat your customers the same way you would treat friends, your customers will be there for you down the road. Do not expect immediate gratification. Cherish it if it happens and continue to foster it, but do not expect it.
I have one final question … As a brand, don’t you want to connect, have an open line of communication, and strengthen the importance your customers feel towards your brand? How do you think that will happen? Through people experiencing your brand. Brand experience is a whole lot more than product itself. I strongly argue that a darn good part of that brand experience is the relationship one has with the brand. And I have never seen a good relationship that did not have good two-way communication. You want to see winning social media initiatives, start by being social – listen, respond, engage.
Make It Happen!