Useful Social Media have put together a list of the top 12 issues they think a social media marketer faces, which have been incorporated into the agenda for their Corporate Social Media Summit in December. They have asked for feedback. I like USM because I think they are tuned-in to what the market as a whole is thinking and therefore it may well be that these are the issues that social media marketers think are important – but this may reflect the fact that many social media marketers are not entirely in the right place at the moment.
Here are USM’s issues and my response. (Note – there are not 12, but I think USM mean they have incorporate 12 issues into a less than 12 point agenda).
Maintain customer engagement through a unified brand voice and effective conversation strategy
Unified brand voice – absolutely not. This is an example of trying to make channel and message thinking from the world of the audience work in the world of the individual – where the challenge is all about behaviour identification and response. Just because in the social space there is now a multiplicity of channels and thus potential messages, does not mean that the challenge is creating consistency of message across all of these channels. Unified brand voice was what creates efficiency in the world of restricted, audience-based channels and media. It does not determine success in the social space – which is all about brand behaviour.
Conversation strategy – yes. Provided this does not mean, to quote Coca-Cola “provoking conversations with your consumers.” Conversations need to be about what customers want to talk about, not what you want to talk about with your customers.
Broaden your reach through an exciting, innovative and creative content creation strategy that triggers customer response
No. Content is a concept that comes straight out of the world of the audience, where reach and frequency were the metrics. When someone is behaving as an individual almost by definition they don’t they want content, they want information. Also – it is not about triggering customer response, it is about responding to triggers from the customer. Content is not king in the world of social media. This is one of the most common mistakes being made at the moment, and understanding the difference between content and information is key to effective use of social media. Largely it is a question of intention. Content is intended to be a single thing, consumed by a large number of people (i.e. an audience) usually all at the same time (hence the obsession with creating viral content). Information is intended as a specific answer to a single individual, defined in most part by their behaviour at a specific moment in time (i.e. the moment they ask the question). Content is designed for audiences and is something you can plan and prepare in advance. Information is a process. It is basically about how, in real-time, you respond to the questions for which your business is an answer.
Embed social media across your business: Connect your employees, break down silos and encourage inter-departmental collaboration to build a social business
Absolutely. Social media is best understood as a business process. However, the one watch-out here is not to think about how to break down silos in order to use social media, it is about how to use social media to break down silos. A small, but important difference.
Find and leverage your brand advocates to generate buzz and enhance brand awareness
Be very careful with this one. For sure you can use social media to identify critical people who can help you with your business, but the way in which you will use them is rarely as an advocate, an influencer or someone who creates awareness. It is not about outreach, it is more about in-reach: using people as sources of intelligence, not as channels to carry messages. Really this should be about finding and ‘leveraging’ superfans and superfans are very different from brand advocates – a point I go into at length in chapter three of my book.
Embed social into your customer support strategy to deepen relationships and surpass your communities’ expectations
Yes. At its heart social media is almost entirely about improving the efficiency of the relationships you can establish with your customers. The watch out though is to not imprison this within a customer support strategy. It is not simply about making your existing customer support more effective, it is about how you put the customer at the heart of a business.
Spot, manage and deal with online issues before they escalate for better brand reputation preservation
Absolutely. All crises start in social media and if you have not made your crisis plan social media compliant it will now be redundant. At its heart this is all about monitoring and listening – which is not only the foundation of dealing with issues it is also the foundation of any effective social media strategy. (Small plug here – I am hopefully going to be running a workshop on social media and crisis management with eMarketeers in November – watch this space for details).
Marshall social data for actionable insight: Establish the right framework to capture, manage and analyse social data – for an improved future business strategy
This touches in the whole Big Data issue and is impossible to ignore. The key thing to realise is that small data analysis is totally different to big data analysis and you need to know within which space you are playing – or else risk wasting lots of money. Also, when it comes to social data, your ability to use it is tied-up with securing the permission to have it in the first place. Creating permission to have the data is probably the most important issue when it comes to actionability – something that it is easy to ignore.
Effective audience segmentation: Deliver targeted messages through social profiling and message personalisation for increased relevance and response
Hmmm. You can use social to develop more efficient segmentation and targeting strategies. However, you must recognise that the concept of audiences and segmentation are a feature of the world of traditional audience-based marketing – not social marketing, i.e. marketing in the world of the individual. You thus need to be aware that as you become more more segmented and targeted you will eventually reach a point where you stop having an audience and have a small group or an individual and these will expect a different sort of behaviour and relationship. Targeted messages rarely feature in this new relationship – you cannot treat individual or groups as simply very small audiences.
Social media performance: Is your social media presence meeting business goals?
Absolutely. This is the single most important issue in my opinion. Social media is a business process and it has to be linked to business objectives. Creating audiences with social media (likes, followers etc) can never be the objective because you will never be able to do it as effectively as you can in traditional media – traditional media being a channel that has the audience already built into it. The inability to answer this question effectively is the number one stimulus for organisations to reconfigure their approach to social media. Unfortunately for the social media marketer, this often means taking social media away from marketing.