Category Archives: social

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.

5 Signs Your Company is Not Ready for Social Media

If you’ve read my blog post on “Why Social Media Won’t Save Your Business“, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that I think some companies shouldn’t have a social media presence.

So here’s what triggered this blog post. Recently, I tried to contact a live human being at a well-known national grocery chain via their Twitter account. But I didn’t get very far as the Corporate Twit (no pun intended) kept referring me back to the website, which has the contact information of one person in “Public Affairs”. Apparently, there’s only one live person at that huge national chain or the only one who dares to put his name out there.

What’s even more amusing is the disclaimer on this company’s Twitter page which says,

 

So this company won’t tell you who is posting this information but whatever this unknown person is posting is not their responsibility. Anyone else see anything wrong with this? I wonder if their lawyers are patting themselves on the back for coming up with this.

It was almost a year back when Robert Scoble wrote his blog post on how one large retailer’s website doesn’t have any people on there. What Scoble said then and I agree:

“Here it is in simple terms: add people to your web sites.”

Scoble’s not talking just about pretty stock pictures. He’s talking about real people – your employees, your customers, people your business needs in order to thrive. The same logic applies to blogs and every other type of your company’s online social media presence. Even a year later, it’s clear that there are plenty of businesses who still don’t get it or just plain don’t care.

Here are 5 signs that your company is not ready for an external social media presence:  

#1 If your company policy prevents you from adding a name or picture of a live human being on your corporate social media account (whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or other), change that policy first and then launch your social media presence.

#2 If your company culture is all about one-way propaganda rather than two-way communication, train your employees in “social” skills before letting them loose on the social media sites.  

#3 If you’re only using social media for pitching products and/or shameless self-promotion, then you need to STOP. You’re no better than the spammers abusing the email system. Use social media for good – engage don’t annoy your customers.  

#4 If your customers didn’t like your cold and impersonal website and if try to replicate that same uninspiring experience on an external social media site, you will fail. We get that you’re a big company but don’t overdo the branding.

#5 If you don’t have a plan for managing and engaging your customers, STOP and create one before you go crazy on the social media sites.Your external social media presence should be treated as an extension of your existing community/customer programs and not as someone’s pet project.

Use of  social media by itself is not good enough any more. The only choice you have is to do it right or don’t do it. Doing it just because some “expert” says so, is far worse than waiting until you’re truly ready and can handle social media.

As far as my saga with the grocery chain goes, it had a positive outcome. I got a tweet from someone offering to introduce me to an executive he knows at that company. So we have proof that social media works but many companies still need to learn how to make it work for them and their customers.

Why Social Media ROI is Still Elusive

eMarketer reported yesterday that marketers still aren’t measuring the investment on their social media investments,

Despite widespread adoption of social media, measurement still lags. Only 16% of those polled said they currently measured ROI for their social media programs.

Lately, it’s become very fashionable to talk about the ROI on social media. You hear the dreaded term everywhere – at conferences, in meetings, on research reports, at your child’s daycare (no kidding) so the question begs to be asked and answered – Why is social media ROI so elusive?

So, here are my top reasons (and please feel free to add your own below in the comments):

#1 This report and many others are making a very flawed assumption – these reports assume social media is a “program” and it needs to be justified like any other short-term program or campaign. Newsflash: Social media is not just a program, it’s a fundamental shift in way your customers and employees consume information and communicate. Social media is fast becoming as ubiquitous as email and when’s the last time your IT department did a ROI analysis on your email network?

#2 Should you measure, track the results on your social media activity? Absolutely! However, you’ll find that with any new channel, the “I” will always be substantially higher because you’re still making investments in this new media and may not have realized any of the efficiencies yet, so any ROI analysis on the new media is skewed. 

#3 In many cases, it doesn’t even make sense to do the financial analysis on some social media activities because it’s pretty much, the cost of doing business. Here’s an example: Adding social sharing tags to your email so your customers can share your marketing email with their friends and family on some social network is a no-brainer and as essential as providing an URL link to your website. It doesn’t justify a ROI analysis, although I would recommend analyzing the click-through/share rate. This is something you should do in any case, regardless of whether or not, any social tag is included.

#4 Having a blog or Twitter account is not a social media strategy. Social media success is dependent on the sum of different parts. Just like you wouldn’t utilize just one traditional channel to market your product or services, it’s ridiculous to think that one Twitter account or a blog by itself is somehow going to generate ROI overnight. That’s why it’s essential to remember that not everything that’s important in business (and in life) can be measured and just because  you can measure it, doesn’t make it important or relevant.

#5 I’ve blogged about this before, but social media will not solve your pre-existing business problems.

A guy goes to the doctor with a broken arm and asks, “Doc, can I play the piano once my arm has healed.”

The doc says, “Of course, you can!” 

The guy says, “Great, I never knew how to play (the piano) before.”

Bottom line, if you weren’t able to accurately track the results from your traditional marketing activities because of your internal tracking/lead management issues, you’re not magically going to start doing it just because you’re using social media.

One reality that most ROI proponents gloss over is that even the most traditional, established media activities don’t have a clear defined ROI. Not to pick on events but let’s look at event sponsorships like Golf tournaments etc.?  How on earth do companies measure the ROI on those or even television ads for that matter?!

Attribution was an issue with traditional media and it will continue to remain an issue, no matter which media you choose.

Trying to assign a specific dollar amount to any social media marketing activity is an exercise in futility because individually these activities are weak but done in coordination, these can move the needle. That’s also why marketing is still part science and part art.

Rather than looking at ROI on specific social media activities, marketers should be looking at their key business objectives, selecting/incorporating the right social media elements to meet those objectives, and then evaluating the overall results. Ultimately, what matters is not whether the social media activity was a success but whether the business objectives were met.

6 Simple Steps to Your Company’s First Social Media Policy

kittypornIn my previous post, I gave three reasons “Why Every Company Needs a Social Media Policy”. It’s reckless for companies engaging in the social media space not to provide their employees with some basic rules of engagement especially, as these employees blog, tweet, and engage on social sites as a representative of the company.

The purpose of the social media policy is to clearly define acceptable and unacceptable social media behavior for employees active in this space. Anyone can put together a bad policy and many policies are long and tedious, which is also why they are generally dreaded and loathed. Here are 6 simple steps to a social media policy that’s easy to create, understand, and implement.

#1 Don’t reinvent the wheel. The objective of this project is not to recreate the constitution and you don’t need a bunch of lawyers for this, either. Most companies  already  have  policies that cover confidentiality and ethics, start with those first. Leverage the existing policies and expand the scope as needed to cover social media activities. One practical approach that works well and avoids creation of multiple documents is to add a special section on social media to the overall corporate policy document.

#2 Don’t confuse policy with guidelines:  Many policy documents are excruciatingly long and irrelevant, because they end up being a mishmash of policies, guidelines, and anything else that is deemed to be remotely relevant. Don’t let your policy become a dumping ground. Keep it brief, precise and separate from your guidelines. It’s essential to  remember that policy and guidelines are not the same and shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Here’s an example of a policy – “Do not post confidential information on an external social media site or blog”, while a guideline is much more general  in nature – “Be authentic in your blog posts”.  Guidelines are best practices ie. “nice-to-have” but policy violations can have serious negative consequences for your business, so it’s important not to confuse the two.

#3 K.I.S.S.:  Don’t overdo it and don’t overwhelm your employees with a 100page policy. Keep it short and simple. The employee shouldn’t have to go through 20pages just to figure out whether or not to post something on a blog. Frontload the document with specific yet brief policy items and provide detailed examples and glossary of terms at the end.

#4 Complete the package: Once your policy is ready, add your guidelines section that outlines best practices and finish up with a process guide. The process guide should include information on processes in place to help your social media initiatives such as getting approvals for use of company logo or setting up an external blog. Voila! Now you have a solid social media engagement guide to help ensure that your employees are engaging responsibly and not out there creating a social media nightmare.  

#5 Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!: The problem with most company policies is that either employees don’t know about them or they don’t care. Make sure you make your social media policy visible and available. Communicate it through every internal channel available. Build it into your s0cial media planning process so that folks are required to review it before engaging in any type of social media activity.

#6 Last but not the least, keep it current: The social media space is evolving at a rapid pace, don’t let your policy get outdated and irrelevant. Make regular updates part of your social media policy creation process. Set time aside to review your policy on a regular basis so the policy is still relevant in the changing landscape.

If you don’t tell your employees what’s appropriate, you can’t and shouldn’t hold them responsible when things go wrong. These steps will help your employees and your company in engaging responsibly in the social media world, by creating a social media policy that’s easy to understand and follow.

Credits: Thanks to Jeff Bucchino, “The Wizard of Draws” for the Kitty photo http://www.cartoonclipart.com

Can you be a social media expert without tweeting or blogging?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about a social media ‘expert’ who doesn’t tweet or blog, which got me thinking – How important is it for the social media ‘experts’ to actually get their hands dirty?

Tom Foremski has touched on the same issue in his post , ‘Can you advise on social media if you don’t use it?’

Foremski talks about a PR person whom he met recently, who doesn’t blog or tweet but advises clients on social media and claims that,

… she knows all about Facebook and Twitter and blogging even though she doesn’t blog or leave comments, she isn’t on Facebook, and doesn’t have a Twitter account.

It seems that just by the virtue of being in a customer-facing and/or web-related role, professionals in communication, PR, marketing, and SEO have been thrust onto the social media scene. But chances are that while their clients look to them for guidance on how to navigate this new space, these folks are also scrambling to catch up and are probably just as clueless as their clients.

I agree with Foremski that if you’re supposed to be an expert in ‘social’ media, can you really be credible if you aren’t out there being..um.. social?! There are definite advantages to getting your hands dirty. It gives one more credibility with clients and helps reassure them that the advice they’re getting  is based on experience, not just theory. It also provides a good understanding about what works and what doesn’t in the social media space, without relying on someone else’s opinion. 

That being said, blogging or tweeting by itself doesn’t make one an expert in social media. There are plenty of folks who have a huge following on social media sites, but not many of them are qualified to advise anyone on social media. And lately, everyone has a blog so that’s not a great indicator of social media expertise either. This great cartoon shared by Mark Evans, strikes a chord as everyone claims to be a social media expert these days. 

I think it’s irrelevant whether these ‘experts’ learn about social media tools and sites by using them or researching them. What’s more important is that folks who are responsible for advising their clients on social media aren’t married to a single tool or site. These professionals need to be objective and tool/site-agnostic so they can recommend the right tools for their clients, even if they aren’t experts in using it. There’s nothing worse than a so-called expert who recommends a specific social site or tool because that’s the only one they are familiar with.

At end of the day, clients aren’t just paying for someone’s expertise in social media but rather their expertise in how to use social media to help their business.

Can you be a social media expert without tweeting or blogging?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about a social media ‘expert’ who doesn’t tweet or blog, which got me thinking – How important is it for the social media ‘experts’ to actually get their hands dirty?

Tom Foremski has touched on the same issue in his post , ‘Can you advise on social media if you don’t use it?’

Foremski talks about a PR person whom he met recently, who doesn’t blog or tweet but advises clients on social media and claims that,

… she knows all about Facebook and Twitter and blogging even though she doesn’t blog or leave comments, she isn’t on Facebook, and doesn’t have a Twitter account.

It seems that just by the virtue of being in a customer-facing and/or web-related role, professionals in communication, PR, marketing, and SEO have been thrust onto the social media scene. But chances are that while their clients look to them for guidance on how to navigate this new space, these folks are also scrambling to catch up and are probably just as clueless as their clients.

I agree with Foremski that if you’re supposed to be an expert in ‘social’ media, can you really be credible if you aren’t out there being..um.. social?! There are definite advantages to getting your hands dirty. It gives one more credibility with clients and helps reassure them that the advice they’re getting  is based on experience, not just theory. It also provides a good understanding about what works and what doesn’t in the social media space, without relying on someone else’s opinion. 

That being said, blogging or tweeting by itself doesn’t make one an expert in social media. There are plenty of folks who have a huge following on social media sites, but not many of them are qualified to advise anyone on social media. And lately, everyone has a blog so that’s not a great indicator of social media expertise either. This great cartoon shared by Mark Evans, strikes a chord as everyone claims to be a social media expert these days. 

I think it’s irrelevant whether these ‘experts’ learn about social media tools and sites by using them or researching them. What’s more important is that folks who are responsible for advising their clients on social media aren’t married to a single tool or site. These professionals need to be objective and tool/site-agnostic so they can recommend the right tools for their clients, even if they aren’t experts in using it. There’s nothing worse than a so-called expert who recommends a specific social site or tool because that’s the only one they are familiar with.

At end of the day, clients aren’t just paying for someone’s expertise in social media but rather their expertise in how to use social media to help their business.

Social media: Statistics and Damn Lies

I am sure, many of us have seen presentations that rave about the wonder that is social media. Heck, we’ve even made some of these presentations ourselves.  What I find amusing is the random use of data and statistics to prove a point…any point. Given that I started my career in research and analytics, I love data but I abhor statistics that serve no purpose but to fill up space. Here are three questions that deserve to be asked and answered, when presented with any glittering stats on social media:

#1 Does data match the business case?
I am sure you’ve heard this a million times – Facebook and Twitter have millions of users. That’s great but…what does this mean for your business? Are these sites relevant to your customer base?  We often let large numbers distract us and underestimate the value of ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’. All the traffic on the planet isn’t going to help your business if it’s not your target audience. Explore other options, ask about the smaller  social networks out there, which cater to a more targeted audience and might be a better fit.

#2 What’s the baseline?
Taken out of context, numbers don’t mean much. If you start with a user base of one and add even one user, you have 100percent growth, on the other hand, even a 1percent growth for a company like Google is a huge deal. Same holds true when you’re talking about KPIs and metrics for lead acquisition. For a small company, a couple of leads through Twitter can have a big impact on the revenue, but for a larger company that’s a drop in the bucket. Make sure you ask for clarification on what the numbers are based on and if possible, look at comparable measures to see if the numbers are indeed that impressive when put into context of your business.  

#3 What’s driving that growth?
Presenters love to throw in factoids about social media growth, which sound wonderful but don’t tell the whole story. It’s fair to ask what’s fueling growth for a certain social site or tool. Yesterday, Techcrunch  reported   that the 8th fastest growing fan page on Facebook is devoted to masturbation, so unless, you’re in the porn or related business, this little factoid should raise a red flag. It’s a reminder that you need to do your due diligence and research the user base of any site you’re considering for your social media efforts, rather go with the most popular site.

Yes, social media represents a huge opportunity but instead of just diving in blindly,  it’s time we evolved past the statistical generalities and start digging deeper into the data that’s presented to us. That’s the only way to measure and mine the true potential of social media for your business and brand.