April 15, 2015

What’s Next in Social Media for Business?

The very fabric of your business needs to integrate and communicate through social media channels, but produce results. The what’s next part is about our ability to integrate social media marketing into the very fabric of our business. Social media marketing comprises about 20% of U.S. ad spend for 2012 and companies report they will increase their ad budget for 2013 and through 2014. The what’s next is about converting our current strategy of listening and interacting to dollars that positively impact the bottom line. The first step is to be honest about our strategy and use of social media for business purposes. Corporations talk a lot about transparency today, well, let’s try not to mask social media as anything but our attempt to better understand the customer and to meet their needs in a way that the customer themselves establish.

The concept of designing products and services that meet customers needs is not new, in fact, its the age old marketing concept of push/pull marketing of creating demand in the market place. These macro level economic theories are put into play anytime, anywhere by our clients now in the digital social media space. Business has not quite adjusted to the demands consumers now put on us, as opposed to business defining customer issues like when and where consumers could buy our product, and business trying to control the buying cycle – these concepts will soon be turned upside down by social media, where the consumer decision points and touch points are determined by the customer.

I would like to suggest to you that social media marketing is an age old marketing scheme, consisting of networking and communication, albeit, updated through the digital space. So now that your business has decided to engage in social media as part of the marketing mix, the challenge is assimilating the customer feedback, and doing something with it that provides value to the customer, and makes your business money.

I would next like to suggest to you that there are many, many products in the market place positioning themselves as your answer to social media. A word of caution here is that there are some good products out there, but none that I’ve seen that answer all your challenges. Your challenge starts with the decision point to create a strong strategy for social media as part of the marketing mix and progresses through decision points on how to pay for and manage the steady stream of customer interactions, to measuring, and ultimately earning something to pay for all the expense that goes into this new type of marketing communication.

The smaller your company the greater the costs, as a percentage of your top revenue line, thus, impacting your bottom line to a greater degree. Searching for a return on investment in social media will be a long-term project, as you must develop the program from scratch. In Internet terms we like to refer to this as growing your business organically, or something we used to use a criss-cross directory for, but now can do through the use of emails instead of direct mail.

I was lucky enough to hear Adam Brown of Salesforce.com speak the other day about his experience in implementing social media programs with Coca-Cola, Dell and now Salesforce, and the one thought that struck a cord was, “how do you deal with 27,000 comments, posts, tweets, etc. from 11 different languages every month?” This is the scope and scale to which your company could be facing as you develop your program.

I had the good luck of implementing and managing the social media programs I’ve designed simply because the size of the businesses were and are small to median-sized. Therefore, the top-to-bottom of the social media funnel is not as large.  Scale is an issue that has to be dealt with, because non moderation becomes a business liability. This liability starts when you fail to design a distribution strategy to manage the disparate comments across the social media and digital space. Then, if you don’t handle them after you’ve distributed them, what are your own clients to think? Your trust meter just dropped to a very low point because from their perspective your company doesn’t walk the walk and talk the talk.

My advice on the what’s next depends on what stage of development your company is at with respect to implementing a social media marketing program, but I want to share a few simple, time tested marketing strategies about social media:

Integration and Unification

“Integration” refers to your company’s ability to field the resources (manpower and tools) and resolve to be successful at the social media strategy. This concept is further defined by your company’s ability to technically integrate your databases, CRM, middleware, dotcom, app and other digital tools to form a single process that works together to move the customer’s comment through providing value to the customer. From the customer’s perspective it is probably better not to have engaged and failed then to not engage at all.

The “Unification” refers to your company’s ability to deliver on what we used to call integrated communications. The idea that we coordinate our campaigns across print and electronic media is an age old one, but a concept that applies more so to the digital space and wrapping social media into the marketing mix. This concept is the game changer. If you are committed to integrating your systems in order to deliver client value, then you must unify your communications across all channels to achieve a directed or laser branding effort.

The two old concepts when applied today to the traditional advertisement and promotions regimen, and combined with the digital space as a marketing strategy, takes social media and places it squarely in your company’s annual financial results. If you follow the logical outcome to the “what’s next in social media for your business”, then you have to believe that your marketing department can achieve a solid ROI and deliver dollars to the EBITDA line.

If your company doesn’t get how to do this yet, conceptually or designing a project to achieve succeeding in social media, then simply contact us for help at #himerit, leave us a note and we’ll arrange a meeting to hear your story and see how we can help you.

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