Social media --1:1 marketing and communications is so new, it sounds glamorous. Some see it as a new sense of freedom, romantic even. Just you and him (or her) bonding, building a relationship, building sales.
The first thing the company has to do is forget about employing their mass advertising thinking to social media. People don’t want, expect, appreciate marketing messages being pushed at them on the Web. According to a study by Digital Brand Expressions, nearly all of the firms surveyed in the consumer industry are committed to carrying out a social media program.
Research where respondents at participating companies were asked who in the company should be dealing with the social media activities shows how clear “ownership” really is:
- 94% said it is a marketing activity
- 71% thought public relations should handle it
- 55% said social media should be of the sales related activities
- a mixed number said HR and customer service should be involved
Meanwhile, most companies appear to be shooting from the hip, with no cohesive game plan or measurement systems in place.
According to Digital Brand Expressions, less than 41 percent of companies have a cohesive, strategic social media plan. Fewer yet have policies/protocols for handling/managing the activity. 52% of social marketers are operating “without a game plan.” The majority of the firms with plans in place admit that the policies and programs are not widely distributed within the organization.
Even among those with a plan, few have written policies and communications protocols in place, leaving the organization exposed to problems arising out of employees communicating in ways that inadvertently hurt -- rather than help -- their company brands.
However, there is strong consensus in what the company wants to do, what it wants to achieve in the social media arena. Their goal is to build/protect the organization’s brand, develop an effective team of brand advocates who are very active in the consumer marketplace and build a reserve of positive support that can be drawn upon when problems occur. To achieve this they want to enhance/enrich product coverage, work with/support consumers who are positive toward the company and the products and either win over or nullify negative online customer discussions.
The uncertainty of responsibility/authority over social media should not deter a company from becoming involved today!
It will inspire fundamental business improvements through:
• Emergence of new social media-enabled business models.
• Ability to increase the "stickiness" of relationships by improving loyalty through customer engagement.
• Use of communities to improve innovation by providing quick feedback on products and services.
As social media evolves, so will a company’s social media programs.The company’s product information/support Web site areas are good – albeit less glamorous – places to start. Consumers go to sites to learn about a company, discover products and services, for information needed to make choices, for support, and, perhaps, to make a purchase or find out how to make a purchase.
One Small Step
Once the fundamentals are in place, you’ll probably want to move to brand monitoring. Microblogs such as Twitter have become very effective means of providing customer service and gathering customer feedback. Negative remarks can be quickly monitored. As more things migrate online, complaining seems to rise to the top…quickly.
Anyone can Twitter, and an estimated 50% of the tweets are idle chatter. However, according to ROI Research, 33% of active Twitter users share opinions about companies, products, 32% make recommendations and 30% ask for recommendations.
Some organizations have created their own content to offset negative consumer opinions. Faked or camouflaged responses are quickly uncovered, often amplifying the issue. Many manufacturers and retailers use Twitter as a customer service tool because they can:
• Offer immediate customer advice/assistance
• Build their brand as a customer-centric business.
• Solve problems quickly.
There are many useful tools available to help put Twitter to work. For example, check out Monittor.com. This site enables you to track real-time keywords on Twitter. Another site, Tweetbeep keeps track of Tweets that mention your company, products, your areas of interest.
To ensure you’re aware and can give prompt attention to discussions, set up Google Alerts which can be sent to your inbox daily or weekly. Again, it identifies who, what, where discussions of your business/products/services. You can then determine how to best handle negative comments/feedback or even positive comments/feedback to enhance your customer relationship.
Establish one or more Google Profiles about your company, your products/services, yourself. Using Google templates, you can quickly/easily produce a Profile page. You write it about your business, why it is special, what it uniquely provides and can be linked to your website, blog, social site page or other online area.
The profile will always be on page 1 of a Google search about your company, your products. To see how this works, Google "Gideon Marken.” At the bottom of Page 1, you will see a Google Profile – our son’s. By preparing your firm’s Google profile you can always be certain one search entry is consistent with the company’s goals, objectives, direction.
There are a myriad of social media areas we will explore later; but basically, it includes everything the company does in reaching out, touching, working with people in the firm’s many/varied publics.