Part III of this three-part series is to discuss externally focused social media perspectives and tools. This is my favorite and took a long time to finish as many of my friends know I changed positions in early 2010. In hindsight, this delay will benefit this post as social media in the enterprise has moved forward in tremendous ways even if not everyone has adopted the concept or philosophy. Some might call it mainstream others a maturing market but I call it exciting! Externally focused social media has many functions but two primary functions: customer service and marketing and is driven off of listening to conversations on the web about your company and brand. Imagine, primary market research readily available on the web . Social media has been on the move to mainstream as an element of an overall integrated marketing strategy. Much is being written about “Social CRM” (Customer Relationship Management) and “Social Business” and as social media matures the crowded social media tool market will continue to attempt to create new product categories and create confusion. I liken it to the early days of Ethernet, when as a product manager for networking products all sorts of related categories were attempted. For example, workgroup computing, hub-based computing, centrally managed networks. Let’s further explore what is occurring in the early puberty days of social media.
There are differences between the targeted messaging for consumers and business-to-business but the methodology and tools remain the basically the same. We will touch on these differences and explore approaches to each. Company size, philosophy and budgets affect the approaches taken and we will explore some perspectives.
Enterprises interested in implementing a social media strategy need to establish overall business objectives and metrics with which success will be measured. As any good program requiring investment, an ROI which is acceptable to the company is what drives the implementation and success of the program. Potential business objectives include the following business functions:
- Inbound Marketing and lead generation
- Customer Service
- Tech Support
- Competitive insight and analysis
- Crisis management
- Search engine optimization
- Brand tracking and audit
The key is to align your social media efforts with your business objectives. I have observed how challenging this can be in both small and larger companies. Traditional executives typically dislike change and the required culture shift but in my opinion if social media is ignored or taken lightly, your company will be left behind competitively. Think back to culture shifts we have experienced: voice mail, email, and the Internet. In past presentations during my career, I have used the example of air travel surpassing train travel while train companies were looking at incremental changes of locomotives and engines. Social media is a sea of change and simply needs to be integrated into the overall corporate strategy.
B2C vs. B2B Social Media: Social media can be used by Business to Consumer in all social channels and target consumer buying habits by listening for complaints or praises by customers. B2C’s have numerous opportunities across the major properties such as Twitter and Facebook. Good solid examples of excellent B2C social media companies include Comcast, Delta, American Airlines, and Dell. There are a myriad of others, but I have personally used these channels. It is easy to monitor conversations and take action based on customer Tweets or Facebook posts and the application of “word of mouth” marketing and support can be applied to leverage social channels.
For B2B, it is similar but more targeted and focused. For example, these days I am working in the data center space. I find data center professionals on LinkedIn and Twitter and join groups, lists and using search tools find the appropriate people and companies to follow. Then when I send out Tweets related to these markets they are targeted at these readers and followers. Lead generation, relationship building, competitive insight, and expanding sphere of influence are all realized benefits. Properly nurtured, new channels of communications can be achieved and new decision makers can be reached. Until you actually execute these ideas and experiment with them it may be difficult to visualize.
In closing, I have some guidelines to share as you consider the use of social media for external communications both inbound and outbound. I share them here as a 2011 New Years gift to anyone who wants to listen, learn and consider.
- Understand the social media market landscape and tools
- Subscribe to free resources such as: - leading web strategist Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter who is a leading edge thought leader
- Select business objectives you wish to achieve with social media such as reduced pay-per-click (ppc) costs, increased customer satisfaction, increased qualified leads, increased SEO for your web site, etc.
- Connie Bensen has written a series of white papers covering the business objectives that can be achieved
- Build a strategy that includes resource (s) to execute, measure and track analytics as well as take actions to refine the results
- Refine strategy based on metrics and track effectiveness – it’s a consistent ongoing loop
- Attend social media events and learn what like-minded companies are doing successfully
In summary, I’d highly suggest to determine how social media fits into your overall business objectives. Integrate social media into your overall culture and business philosophy and watch your online presence grow, your brand and message to become more visible and respected, and remember that it applies to marketing, customer service, customer satisfaction and employee productivity driving sales and service success metrics.