We're now in what I am starting to call the perfect storm for social media. On one side we have lots of very smart and accomplished professionals who are and have been using these tools to network, learn, and some to market themselves successfully to new jobs and careers.
On the other we have many companies that are starting to see the need for different answers to growth than the diminishing returns not guaranteed by traditional channels. Traditional marketing was done mainly on top of media that is now facing a changed reality as well.
Buzz of social media is escalated by the file and rank inside companies, especially in the sales groups, which is where the need for warm leads is always felt. And more executives on the lookout for new channels are asking about a social media program.
Except for social media is not just the tools. It comes with the messiness of contact and interaction - which used to be reserved to the people on the ground on an "in person" basis. In the same way as sales people learn to read the body language of their prospects, marketers now can read digital body language, as Steven Woods says:
we need to think in terms of a buying cycle not a selling cycle. When we use the term “sales process”, or anything similar, we are subconsciously acting as if we are in control. We have to re-orient our thinking to a buying process, controlled by the prospect, guided by their social conversations, and on their time frames.
You probably read it in many of my posts - we're tired of being sold to, but we do like to buy. It's the push/pull tension. Social media, when executed well, is perfect for what marketers term inbound.
Marketing communications and digital media groups within organizations are well equipped to start thinking about integrating social media.
But it shouldn't be an afterthought, something to tack on another five or six jobs or on the tail end of a campaign that places its attention elsewhere. It should be a well thought-out consideration that responds to the tools, dynamics, time frames, and to the appropriateness, timing, and rhythms of the community. Not a small feat, and one that a non practitioner will not get - no matter how hard they may try to learn just from books.
What is a company to do? Start testing a couple of things keeping in mind that:
1. What you don't say is as important as what you do say - choose that carefully. In social media your behavior or stance towards prospects, customers, and the community will be quite obvious. Every impression counts perhaps not as a lead but as either a referral or an occasion for someone to tell you what you do wrong. Are you organized to capture that feedback and adjust your course accordingly?
2. You will need great content, and the skills to share it in different formats - there's a lot more to white papers in thought leadership. In social media, content is also the expression and interaction. Much of what happens is situational. Your people are your content, too. Your marketing communications team needs to be versed in digital media, PR, direct response, psychology, sociology and sometimes translation. The Web is global. Is your team equipped to have global, local conversations?
3. Integrate everything into a flow and know how to track each step - this sounds a lot like Hansel and Gretel. I insist on research and data at your fingertips. How you read the tea leaves is more important than what they look like. For example, many insist that great success in a blog equals lots of comments. I disagree. Comments are intent to like, they don't equal buying. How about links, trackbacks, forwards, etc. You may measure everything, are you measuring the right things?
4. Think less control, more influence - it will help you stay clear of the broadcast model that so upsets the communities you are trying to reach. It will also help you build a good and diverse team (with disclosure, please) to participate in the community. Why not start with asking yourself and the community how you can help? By giving first, you establish credibility.
5. You'll do better if you've got nothing to lose - this is why testing new things will probably work when done in small ways. And while you're at it, stop thinking in terms of winning and losing and start warming up to the idea of sharing, instead. Loyalty programs did not work because you wanted to give with one hand and take with the other. How about we stop the games or we play them with customers in mind?
All of this will not come naturally. Keep in mind that:
- These are not rules, they're suggestions from what I learned by doing.
- It's not a program, it's the way of your customer's environment and the marketplace.
- The companies that are doing it well, are still testing every day.
Now is the time to own your brand and create a conversation for your organization, before it becomes a question of who owns it internally. When it fails, it will be your fault. When it succeeds, some other group will want to brag it was all them. Big brands will succeed only when they can align internally for the external good. That can be helped only if they want to.
[welcome to Smart USA]
My Top 3 Digital Marketing Tactics for 2009
Involve, Create, Promote, Discuss, Measure - the Social Media Campaign
How does a Company Dip its Toes in the Conversation?
Ten Ideas for Conversation
How Social Networks are disrupting Everything You Know About Business
© 2006-2009 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.