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.
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’.
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 ...