Tag Archives: social media

Marketing Mystic blog has moved to http://marketingmysticblog.com

The Marketing Mystic blog has moved to http://marketingmysticblog.com

Making the Business Case for Social Media

Despite the skyrocketing adoption of social media by customers and explosion of “experts” in this space, there is still significant angst among social media practitioners across companies who are struggling with lack of support from management.

So let’s look at the key reasons why your management doesn’t “get” social media and effective ways of channeling the frustration into some concrete steps, which can be a much more productive way to counter this issue.

#1 Can you hear me now?

In many organizations, social media champions/practitioners have little business background or acumen. So, their case for doing social media is somewhat weak since they can’t effectively convey the value to management. To convince management why social media matters, you will need a strong evangelizer/s who understands the business objectives, has credibility with management and is able to communicate the value of social media effectively to your management.

#2 Failing the “So What” Test

Social media practitioners are failing to connect the dots between social media activities and business objectives. Management may not “get” social media but they understand business metrics. Too many social media champions are on “planet social media” while their management is firmly grounded in their financial reality. If social media champions want to make their case, they will have to start translating their social media metrics like fans, followers into real metrics like traffic, leads, and sales, ie. metrics that an executive can relate to and care about.

#3 Fuzzy is as Fuzzy Does

There are a wide variety of reasons for doing social media from “experts” ranging from “everyone is doing it” to “it’s risky not to do it”. Guilt and fear may be good instigators but rarely are good long-term motivators. The key is to share relevant examples and clearly highlight opportunities in your own industry, which is a much more effective way of getting your point across than showing random charts and examples from unrelated industries, just because the numbers look impressive. Having clearly defined business goals and tying social media activities to specific objectives will go a long way towards making a solid case.

#4 Focus on What Matters

The reality of corporate America is that your management’s top priority is the bottom line (which can be a good thing as it keeps you employed). Rather than taking it personally, social media champions should address the real issues underlying the hesitation rather than demonizing the messenger. If your management’s goal is to drive more awareness of a new product, put together a plan that can help meet that objective rather than offering to set up a social program with no clear direction or purpose.

#5 Rome Was Not Built in a Day

Last but not the least, change-resistant culture continues to be a huge inhibitor to adoption of anything new and this is no different. The only way forward is to take small steps towards the end goal and be patient yet persistent to get where you need to go. What is critical to success is your ability to listen to the concerns (you’d be surprised that some are quite genuine) and address each one as you build your case. Good news is that you’re swimming with the tide not against it, so change will come, slowly but surely.

Blogs vs. Forums Which is the Right Option for your Business?

Social media has evolved to a point that companies need to put some thought into selection of the right social media format rather than picking a medium just because everyone is using it. Take blogs as an example. I’ve touched upon this before in my blog post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, where I’ve discussed that blog is a means to an end but the end has to be clearly defined before picking the format. It’s very easy to misuse any given medium, as we’ve all seen plenty of examples where blogs are (ab)used as just another means of passing on corporate spin.

Bottom line is that it’s not about the medium, the key is to identify your objective/goal first and pick the format/medium last. Although, I have to admit in the social media crazy age, the objective seems to be an afterthought in many cases.

This month, I came across an old(er) format that we’re all familiar with and seems to have made a resurgence lately. I am referring to good ol’ fashioned forums, that had taken a backseat to their more glitzier cousins, the blogs and rarely ever featured in social media plans.

According to entrepreneurs like Vincent (Vinnie) Lauria forums are ready to rock the social media world. I rarely discuss specific products/services on my blog. When Lauria’s startup Lefora.com recently announced Tal.ki , an “embeddable forum” or (forum) software as a service, which can be deployed anywhere on your site, it sure got my attention. Tal.ki is a 2nd Generation forum product, based off of Lefora.com platform which has over 100,000 forums worldwide.

Here’s the thing, if social is all about community, crowd sourcing, and exchange of information, then forums are the original social media and yet, they rarely get featured in any social media planning or strategy conversations. Forums have traditionally been associated with customer support in the enterprise space or hobbyists/fans on the consumer side with text-based discussion threads. Forums have come a long way from the text-based discussions and now offer ability to embed videos, files into the conversation. However, the newer versions have much more potential and full of social features such as a Twitter, Facebook (likes), etc.

Lauria says, Tal.ki forums allow members to sign-in with their social networking profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter. So a member does not need to create a new account in order to participate, instead they use their existing social network profile.

So you’re probably asking yourself at this point, does this mean I should start a blog or a forum?

The answer isn’t one or the other because each format has its own purpose and benefits. Blogs are a powerful way for companies to share information and have conversations with stakeholders but they require the conversation to be driven from the company (blogger). There is an expectation that the company/blogger will respond to the user’s comments.

However, forums require a more hands-off approach with minimal company “intervention”. If your objective is to foster conversations and nurture a community then forums are the best way to help get discussions rolling between customers. A forum provides a great online place where customers can help each other but there‘s a great deal of value in getting insights from the customer exchanges. You can use forums to uncover customer pain points, get product feedback, and also, channel top-of-mind issues to generate blog topics.

According to Google search, there are over 100million monthly global searches for “forum”.

 

The challenge for any company today is that social content is growing exponentially and companies are caught up in this tsunami of social data. So the question for enterprises is around data security and storage. Amazon has addressed this need by allowing that allows startups like LeFora, offering software as a service, to be hosted on Amazon EC2 platform that offers secure storage and access to data walled off within Amazon on a private firewall with a private VPN tunnel to the organization. So with SaaS offerings like Tal.ki, a company doesn’t need to install new servers, new software, nor worry about maintaining the security of the system, so that also allows them to scale easily as their community grows.

I think forums should be integrated into every social media practitioner and marketer’s plan. Forums are a treasure trove of invaluable insights direct from your customers. So the question that begs to be asked and answered is why do companies pay for market research when they could be mining data that’s available through their own forums for free?

How to: Demystify the Social Media Expert Myth

Much has been said about social media “experts” ranging from Hallelujah, they exist! to “(they) are the cancer..and must be stopped.

These diverse responses are perfectly understandable in an age where every other person (and her nanny) is an “expert”, “guru”, “pundit” or other. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, companies still rely on these darn “experts” to help navigate the uncharted and often turbulent social media waters.

The key to demystifying the social media “expert” myth and finding the real deal is to take a hard look at what a social media “expert” actually does. Based on their role, the experts can be classified into 3 major categories – “Do”ers, Planners, and Talkers.

The most popular and generic “Social Media Manager” roles typically belong to the “Do”ers category, which includes folks who “do” social media and typically are the public face of the brand on social networking sites. These are the folks who manage communities, tweet, blog, and engage on sites like Facebook on behalf of the brand. “Do”ers tend to be individual contributors who spend a great deal of time on the social networking sites and/or have roles that require them to be highly visible brand ambassadors. Having strong online communication skills is a must-have for this role. Folks with engaging personalities and community background (forums, chat, etc.) shine in these types of roles. While this is often an after-thought, this role is best suited for folks with calm temperaments who are less likely to go off the deep end in a crisis. Case in point is the Nestle crisis, where the company rep snapped under pressure on Facebook and had to apologize at the end.

Planners are typically folks who have decent social media expertise and presence but their focus is primarily on planning/managing social media activities. The typical role in this category is social media strategist, who is responsible for pulling together all disparate social media activities into a cohesive strategy/plan. Actively engaging on social media sites is a time-consuming activity, it’s rare to find someone who can balance both roles (planning and engaging) without getting overwhelmed. Folks with solid marketing and/or community management backgrounds seem to do well in these roles. You’ll probably see these types of roles filled by people managers who typically work behind-the-scenes vs. on the front-lines. There aren’t many folks who have the skill set/experience required for these types of roles so increasingly, companies are relying on external social media agencies and consultants to meet their planning needs.

Talkers are your blogbertis or twitteratis who are well-known for talking/writing about social media and may or may not actually engage in social media on behalf of any specific cause for your company (other than social media). Folks in this category typically have a large following on social networks, but may lack the experience in applying social media in a business context. This is a great category for hiring your spokespeople especially if your company is trying to build brand-recognition and wants to get more visibility in the social media space. Many major brands seem to have at least one social media celebrity on their roster, who is not strategically aligned to any specific business function or objective but is rather focused on promoting the company’s overall brand and related messaging.

So there you have it, not everyone is an expert but even among the real experts, different folks excel at different roles. That being said, knowing what you want to achieve is key to deciding the type of expert you need and to avoid getting sucked into the expert myth.

Would love to hear your thoughts on other categories/roles that should be added here.

Debunking the Top Three Social Media Myths for Business

As social media has evolved, so have the myths. Here are the top three fallacies that are widely prevalent in the corporate circles and if left unchallenged, these can do serious damage to your business and brand.

Every Company Should have a Blog

I’ve heard so many “experts” claim that every business needs a blog, so here’s a reality check for all blog advocates – corporate spin by any other name and in any format is still…corporate spin. Unless, the medium is used for what it’s intended, i.e. genuine dialogue/conversation with the readers, a blog is no more effective than a static web page. There are plenty of examples of really bad corporate blogs out there, which should be pulled down because the content is outdated and/or in many cases, it’s just a rehash of the company press releases.

Companies and “experts’ who are fixated on blogs are missing the point. At end of the day, this isn’t (and shouldn’t be) about bragging rights because your company has hundreds of blogs but rather focused on what really matters – meeting and even exceeding your customer needs.

It’s a fallacy that every company needs a blog, because what a company really needs is a medium to engage with and deliver value to its customer, regardless of format. It’s perfectly acceptable for companies to leverage forums, external social networks like Linkedin and Twitter to engage with their customer base rather than force them to read a badly written corporate blog post.

Listening is Critical in Social Media

I’ve said it before and here it is again, “listening” was not invented by social media experts and companies should be open to all feedback regardless of whether it originated in traditional media or social media. Customer feedback is critical to any company’s continued success and just because a customer emailed the feedback instead of tweeting it, shouldn’t make the feedback any less (or more) valuable. 

Smart companies already had programs in place, to gather and route feedback from customers, prospects, influencers and other critical stakeholders, before the advent of the social media. Granted that enabling technologies for monitoring the social media landscape may be new(er) but without an overarching framework/plan for using all that customer data, the “listening” part is quite pointless.

Anyone can “do” Social Media

Just because anyone and their granny can update their Facebook status, doesn’t mean that anyone in the company can “do” social media. Engaging on a social network in the business setting requires people skills and the ability to communicate effectively (even under pressure) on a public forum. In addition, social media roles such as blogging require content creation skill sets like solid writing and subject matter expertise, so the blogger can add value to their readers.

Social media has evolved from random tweeting and blogging to a sophisticated medium that should be taken seriously because it has serious implications for your brand. Companies should staff their teams with the right talent rather than handing off social media to the first employee who signs up, because regardless of what the “experts” say, your customers deserve better.

Let me know if there are other myths you would add to this list.

The 3 Critical Ws of a Successful Social Media Listening Program

Social Media listening is all the rage these days but many companies are still struggling to do it right because the tendency is to substitute technology for business objectives and processes. 

This may be good news for the social media vendors, but not so good for your business. Whether you’re trying to set up your very first social media listening program or evaluating your current program, here are the 3 critical Ws that no business can afford to ignore.

Note: I use the terms listening and monitoring interchangeably, although one could argue that monitoring is much more pro-active while listening seems somewhat passive.

Why? Define your objective.

Listening may be the new black but it’s certainly not something that was invented by social media “experts”. Any smart company knows that listening to customers is critical to the continued success of business and while the medium may have been different in the past, the need to listen has always existed. The challenge with social media is that it’s tough to keep up with vast amounts of complex, unstructured conversations across multitudes of social channels. And that brings us to our first W of social media listening – “Why”.

Clearly define your listening objective (closely tied to your business objective) at the outset of your listening program as this will keep your program on track and less likely to get distracted by all the noise in the social media space.

Some good examples of listening objectives : Customer support questions/complaints, competitive news, product/company mentions, etc.

Tip: Having clear objectives will help you define your success metrics and help prove the value of your program.

Where? Determine the key social channels.

For many companies starting a new program, it’s a challenge figuring out where to start because there are many different social channels (including blogs) and not all social channels are created equal. The second “W” – Where to focus your listening efforts will be partly determined by your objective and your target audience. 

When in doubt, ask your customers about their social media preferences and where they prefer to engage.It can be as simple as sneaking in an additional question in your annual customer survey (assuming your company does one) or conduct some primary research to understand their preferences. This will, at the very least, give you a starting point and you can slowly broaden your listening program to include other sites, as needed.

Tip: Focusing on a few key social channels (internal or external) rather than trying to  can focus on the channels that are most relevant to your audience.

Who? Identify the right person/team to receive the (listening) information.

One critical part that’s often overlooked (and typically underfunded) in the social media listening  programs is “human intervention”. You may have the best listening platform that money can buy but unless there’s someone actively analyzing all the gathered conversational data and the information is routed to the right person/team for action, it’s a pointless exercise.

There are two key parts to this human element in a social media listening program: Folks who listen and folks who respond/engage/use the data. It’s much more easier when the folks who are doing the listening are the ones tasked with taking action. For example, when the customer support group is actively listening and responding to customer queries/complains. However, in companies with centralized social media programs, it is critical to identify the end user/s for the gathered data.

Tip: Start with one functional area or product/service group and get all the kinks ironed out before rolling out the program company-wide.

Bottom line: Clearly define your listening objectives, focus on the most relevant social sites/channels, and last but most importantly, route the information to the right person/team for action.

4 Simple Steps to Setting Up a Social Media Department

Lately, there has been a flurry of discussions and questions on scaling social media so here’s my take on a key question that seems to be on many minds.

Question: How do I set up a social media department for my company and what is the typical org structure (with roles & responsibilities)?

Let me start off by saying, there is no typical organization structure for a social media team or department, since companies set up their internal org structure based on business needs. Ideally, you want to plan out and budget for resources in advance so you’re not struggling to scale your social media activities. However, the reality at many medium to large-size companies is that social media is often initiated within one specific functional group like customer service or PR and the resources are not fully dedicated to social media but over time, these are shifted over from traditional investments and/or added as needed.

If your management is serious about allocating resources for a dedicated social media team, that’s great news! There are agencies who can audit your organization structure to help assess your social media resource needs. But if you’re working on a tight budget (as most of us are), no worries, here are 4 simple steps to get you off to a decent start.

#1 Define your new team/department’s objective and scope:

Social media has implications for a wide variety of functional areas from marketing to customer support, and even HR. So start by defining your team’s role along with a  clear statement of the team’s objective. Simply put, define your team’s reason for existence and what specific business need it will solve. The scope does largely depend on whether your team is aligned to any specific functional group like marketing or the team is going to structured as a centralized pool of resources that supports the entire organization.

List all the groups/departments that your team will support and level of support you’ll provide them. Remember that the way each functional group uses social media is different so take these differences into account while developing your overall plan. For example: The CS team will use social media differently than the PR team, so make sure you don’t underestimate the resources needed to support these different needs.

#2 Pull together a plan of deliverables and resource needs:

Clearly outline this new team’s responsibilities and deliverables in as much detail as possible. List specific deliverables, frequency. and timelines where ever possible. this is critical because this will help you define how many resources you’ll need to deliver on what you’ve promised. Also bear in mind that while people resources are key for any social media team, but don’t forget to include dollar resources as well for expenses related to resources, tools or external agency resources. One good way to create your estimated budget is to check with your HR, social media agencies, and contracting agencies since they can help you estimate the cost for your resource plan.

#3 Determine team roles & responsibilities:

Once you’ve defined your deliverables, then the next step is put together your potential org chart where the roles are determined by what type of skill set you will need to deliver on your plan. For example: If your plan is to deliver 6 social media training sessions on a weekly basis to all the functional groups, then you will need a) content (develop in-house or externally), b) media for delivery and recording of the sessions and c) someone qualified to lead the sessions. Based on the plan, some typical roles on your team would be social media trainer/s and training/educational content producers. Having clearly defined roles will help you hire talented folks with the right social media skill set rather than generalists aka social media “experts”.

#4 Define your KPIs:

This part is often overlooked but is very critical to the continued success of your team. It’s fair to assume that you may not get all the resources that you ask for and that the need for resources will only grow along with increase in social media adoption. So make sure you’ve defined your success metrics and planned for future growth by including clear milestones. These will help you prove the value of this new team and help you make the case for more resources as needed.

Hope you found this information helpful. Let me know if there’s anything you would add as you’re planning out your social media team.