Successful Social Media Marketing (SMM) is important. It will continue to be more and more critical for business to successfully reach and engage customers. It’s not a strategy though, it’s a tactic.
Social Media Marketing is one of many tactics that leverage the change in social technology as a means of real-time communication and collaboration. It requires what is, for some, a dramatic shift from broadcasting a message to interacting in a bi-directional fashion. Digital social engagement is not much different that engaging in any other way. You have to listen, be accountable, take action and then communicate the results. It doesn’t sound terribly difficult, but it’s tremendously disruptive to how marketing and public relations have operated for decades. Responsibility for actions and answers may not come from marketing. Knowledge of the tools, like having a large number of followers on Twitter, will not get the job done. Subject matter expertise and business acumen will be required to succeed. Now proven, these lessons translate into many meaningful applications of social technology, well beyond customer acquisition and customer retention goals and key performance indicators (KPIs).
The benefits of social technology are well beyond what public platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube have taught us. The lessons have been clear:
- Easy to use platforms are valuable because they allow for rapid adoption.
- platforms can host other useful applications as plugins. widgets and tools that interact with each other. (think of games and photos on Facebook or apps on an iphone)
- Web services, cloud based services, software as a service or online applications – whatever your terminology, can allow groups to coordinate and interact without common geography.
- Sharing on platforms or with social tools online can be done selectively with individuals, teams or segments of teams – in real time.
Essentially, using the technology that has made social public platforms so popular and incorporating new business practices for communication and collaboration, will be required for business to remain competitive and attract the worker of tomorrow. Some serious challenges exist, such as:
- Who gets to be responsible? For many businesses, social media adoption has started in marketing and bled into PR, sales and customer service. many are reluctant to give up control, even for the greater good.
- Information technology departments or decision makers will have to embrace their changing roles. Technology users will get smarter and the tools are getting easier. At the same time, rapid application development will make the choice of what tool is best an ever shifting landscape. All the while, employees download or sign up for a tool that is appealing. many organizations now have a myriad of technologies at work ( collaboration on a Google Document for example) where information resides but is not captured or retained. Further, how will these tools integrate with existing legacy systems? How will they access our important customer data?
- Fear of loss of control by leadership. Leadership is struggling to understand and embrace the idea that customers control their message and how it spreads, that employees can establish their own communication channels and means of accomplishing objectives if the best ones are not offered.
There are many more, however once the roadblocks are removed, an organization can be more nimble and competitive. Proper governance, a clear plan and the creation of a thoughtful roadmap are the predecessors to the selection of tools. And, the tools for any size business are available at every level of scale. Weighing return on investment is important but the results to date include:
- Reducing the amount of email
- Reducing time spent in meetings and making face-to-face time more productive
- Having a more engaged and productive workforce
- Solving customer problems faster and easier and in some cases, having customers solve each other’s problems, therefore reducing customer service cost
- Bringing more products to market in less time or developing customer solutions faster through collaboration
- Making answers to customer problems accessible in real-time. Answer the same question once, not a thousand times
- Improving executive communication and connecting an entire organization to it’s goals
Of course these are only a few of the results seen to date. And achieving them is not always easy. In some cases it causes a business to re-examine and adjust the very fiber of it’s culture, having to employ cross-generational training and embrace new ways of doing things – just like it did with the phone, fax machine and email. The biggest change, however, is the consistency of change itself as technology speeds ahead.