I'm interested in social media in the business environment and the effect it's having on brands and companies.
Large organisations are under much pressure to engage customers via social media that they often launch Facebook pages and Twitter accounts before they have a roadmap
Using social media to “join the conversation,” “create engagement,” “foster dialogue,” “connect with people,” “reveal real personalities behind the brand,” and “show their authenticity and transparency.”
All of the above are virtually impossible to quantify, because they aren’t real business goals; they’re marketing strategies.
CEOs and stakeholders do not want their company be “more engaging” or “conversational.” They want growth and profit with demonstrable ROI. Yet many corporate marketeers are still diving into social media without any direct link to their organizations’ bottom lines.
Social media types talk about monitoring the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, retweets, @replies, blog comments, video views, etc. You may be able to calculate engagement by measuring these things (in reality, these stats are usually dismal for most institutions), but what does this engagement lead to? What are the results? What about sales? Revenue? Customer acquisition? Even if you claim “customer retention” is the goal, how are you measuring and quantifying it?
No doubt social media is where it’s at. Yet corporate marketing is somewhat dull. Marketeers are bombarded with articles and blog posts reminding them how awesome institutions that are actively using social media are. They see peers celebrated and respected for being innovative, so the pressure to “do something” in social media increases.
But in reality what this means is that many start with the tool, and then look for some way to use it. “We’ve got to incorporate social media into our next campaign.” But you wouldn’t pick up a saw and roam through your home looking for something to do with it would you? You only use tools as and when they are specific to what you want to accomplish.
Though many brands pay lip service to their social media being one strand in their communications many are not still joining the dots when it comes to brand reputation management as BP, Eurostar and Nestle et al have found to their costs in the recent months. But how do you get round it? Simples: involve everyone in that needs to be there in your strategy planning meeting, from the CEO, PR internal and external teams, HR and anyone else who is important to your business, perhaps a couple of stakeholders might not go amiss? Just like you would in an offline crisis management situation.
According to recent CIPD research Engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than their disengaged colleagues. So the benefits of using social networking for internal communications purposes are becoming clearer to more companies. Whether the objective is to boost efficiency, engage staff and/or improve reputation, before embarking on such a course companies should have a clear strategy in place. They should seek out suppliers who understand business process and can offer the products and services specifically designed to meet corporate objectives - whether the ultimate goal is to save money or to achieve a competitive edge.
Over the last three years Webjam has responded to our customer’s needs by developing a suite of packages that meet specific customer requirements. So after an initial consultancy phase, we can rapidly build an enterprise social networking platform (supported by managed services) that match customer needs. It enables them to capitalise on social networking by encouraging employee engagement and ultimately, provides a competitive edge by creating ‘brand advocates.’
Package 1- Enterprise: an internal network built around individual employee experience
Package 2 – Group Creation: a network channel, that enables community members to create groups
Package 3 – Endorsement Flows: to generate ideas, endorse and launch new products
Package 4 – Knowledge Centre for capturing and sharing of insights, leading to new project initiations
Package 5 – Community Hub: branded community channel integrated with other social networks
Package 6 – Discovery and Recognition: reputation builder for users and networks
Package 7 – Mirror Network: social media environment linking internal and external networks
Despite BPs best efforts to turn the backlash of public opinion against it in the US, they have to date, been just about as successful as they have in their attempts to stop the torrent of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. However this plays out, will the fact they have been open and timely in updating all of their social media channels make a blind bit of difference?
The plain fact is that social media is but one part of how a company presents its brands to the outside world. But this must also be supported by ‘living the brand’. In other words, not having a corporate social responsibility that pays lip service to *authenticity*, but is actually believed and lived by employees at every level and location.
Leaving the BP’s woes aside, an excellent way of getting employees to think and act responsibly is to implement an open internal communications policy and to employ the mindset of social media ie open and transparent in a bespoke solution that suits your business needs. Despite company’s and people’s fears about being exposed, the benefits are manifold. Shared knowledge, learning, innovative thinking. People who would not normally come into contact communicating. And the business benefits are clear: cost savings in areas such as less face to face meetings and increased profitability through innovative working and creative thought leadership. As the saying goes, a great idea doesn’t mind who owns it. Perhaps BP should be employing its social media channels to ask the public for solutions...
Several recent high profile news stories have highlighted the pitfalls of using Twitter such as: former MP Kerry McCarthy's (aka Labour’s Twitter tsar) illegal revelation about Bristol East’s results prior to the poll closing; shamed Labour hopeful Stuart MacLennan, sacked after posting a string of X-rated rants about political colleagues and rivals, and this weekend, union giant Unite’s Derek Simpson attracting BA's fury with his tweets from their supposedly confidential negotiations. All highlight the importance of having a social media strategy to avoid such calamities.
Webjam helps clients to define their social media strategy through our engagement programme, one of the three pillars of our service. A good way for clients to dip their toe in the water is to utilise social media in their internal communications via enterprise social networking; thus giving people at all levels of the organisation an opportunity to get used to trying out social media within a private environment.
Last week I was asked if Webjam has a widget that would enable a publisher to ‘nick’ forum members from a popular blogging site for their commercial community. If only it were that simple. The reason why the popular blogs are attracting thousands of users is that they offer relevant and original content that users find useful. And they have been built up over time, discovered by people following links when searching for information that interests them and peer recommendation.
But this view fundamentally misses the point of social media. Rather than thinking in terms of old media - i.e. pure e-commerce and ad-funded models, brands that are having success in the social space are thinking longer-term. Rather than simply starting from the position of how to increase their CPM rates, they are thinking about building brand loyalty by engaging with customers to find out what they like or dislike and then using this information to develop totally new lines of products and services; thus creating opportunities for new, never-before realised revenue streams. Going with the political theme, brands should now be asking ‘what can I do for my customers, rather than what can my customers do for me’.
Last week I was asked if ‘there is a widget that would get members from existing communities to join our new, commercially published community?’
Apart from obviously ‘missing the point’ of social media - ie the reason why blogs become popular in the first place is because they are relevant to their community members - so unless you are offering cash incentives or other tenable benefits, you are unlikely to be able to steal someone else community.
What many businesses are still not buying into is the value that social media offers for building brand awareness and customer engagement. Until you can get beyond the ‘can it increase my CPM’ mantra and look at the longer term benefits: ie building up brand loyalty to provided an invaluable source of customer insight that can inform new product and service development, I would hazard a guess that they are not going to succeed in the social media environment. Taking a political view, they need to ask themselves what they can do for their customers, not what their customers can do for them.
A group holiday planner that lets friends to coordinate vacations via their social networking sites is a brilliant example of what social networking does best. Yet this week’s announcement by Easyjet that the budget carrier plans to add e-commerce functionality to its Facebook page illustrates a paradigm shift in how social media is now viewed by mainstream marketeers.
Many brands have long since abandoned campaign sites for their Facebook pages. The strategy is obvious – why not talk to loyal customers who know your brand and like your product, rather than start from scratch each time and it certainly makes marketing budgets stretch farther.
But how do you bring all of your social marketing efforts together, to manage, measure and evaluate return on investment more successfully? Webjam’s social networking platform is a perfect ‘hub’ that enables you to do just that. Intended to complement all other social networking channels; it enables you push messages from a variety of sources spanning: corporate blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and specialist channels in a branded environment. It also provides a perfect ‘single point of contact’ for Comms, Marketing and HR directors to find out what team members are saying in a single ‘console’ – illustrating an important other benefit of Webjam, time saving.
This week, Facebook and Twitter were awash with people voicing their disgust with Nestlé who Greenpeace accused of sourcing palm oil for its Kitkat brand from a company charged with illegal deforestation. Greenpeace drew attention to its message by posting videos of activists in Orangutan suits at the company's HQ - which it distributed widely to broadcast and social media channels.
But wherever you stand on the politics, there is no getting away from the fact that Greenpeace has the upper hand when it comes to getting its message across loud and clear on all of its marketing channels including social media; whilst the conglomerate seems to have a somewhat shakey social media strategy, which according to PR Week, 'quickly became a social media crisis'.
Whatever your point of view, this is a clear lesson of the dangers of embarking on social media without first giving any thought to a strategy, putting the strategy into a plan which is then clearly disseminated to employees who are responsible for social media; and ensuring that it is in agreement with all other marketing and brand messages. After all you wouldn't let a junior address the press would you?
For companies who are scared of dipping their toe in the water as far as social media is concerned. A good way to start is to deploy an enterprise social network - such as Webjam - within the comfort of your own environment, so employees throughout the company can get used to using social media. Its also a great way of opening up conversations and you never know where it might lead ...
At the imedia summit this week in Brighton, speakers from brands like: Asos, Dell, Lego, Love Film and Unilever and agency folk, generally agreed that as social media is now main stream, it should be referred no longer be referred to as social media - just 'what we do'.
Wherever you stand on what social media should be called, most would agree that few other channels present opportunities for engagement as well.
Not only that, but Social Media is saving brands big money. Severalspeakers said that they have made cost savings on product development, by directly engaging with customers via their social networks and asking them to be 'super users' who actively in-put into R&D.
Perhaps the most well known advocate of this is Lego who went so far as signing NDAs with super users, some of whom flew at their own expense to the Lego HQ in Denmark to take part in workshops, the results of which were then fed back into new Lego Mindstorms products.
According to the Harvard Business Review, P&G now attributes 50% savings in R&D to discovery and innovation made outside the company - ie talking to consumers.
Webjam's social networking provides the ideal platform for companies to develop such strategies as it enables them to create fully brandable social network environments that allow customers to engage directly. Customers can create their own profiles and groups, and can be rewarded for participation by the brand.
For example, Lonely Planet, in addition to posting popular bloggers entries onto its site, is now including (with permission and having paid) contributions into its printed products. The circle is being competed ...
No posts to display.