Marketers need a simple, clear way to think about deploying a social media strategy that does not start with technology. Here’s my view of the four main components of social media management for marketers:
Monitoring is finding and tracking the conversations that are occurring about your company in social media and online. Even companies that have no intention of pursuing a social media marketing strategy must monitor what’s being said about them. It’s important to know who is saying good things about your company but it’s even more important to know who is saying bad things. Negative comments-especially those that expose a legitimate flaw in a company’s products or services-can snowball and be picked up by the trade and business press.
Monitoring is also the foundation of a social media marketing strategy. Before companies begin talking, they have to listen. They need to identify the most important influencers in their markets and track those conversations. Understanding the tone and subject matter of the most popular conversations in the market will help companies develop and fine tune their own social media voices.
Engaging occurs when companies decide to take an active role in social media by engaging with customers and influencers in the various forums where conversations are taking place. Examples include public blogs, social networks, and industry communities. The goal in social media engagement is to influence participants to have a positive impression of the company through factual, verifiable contributions from company employees and subject matter experts.
Marketing should monitor social media carefully and assign subject matter experts to track particular blogs and influencers. There should be an escalation process for pushing issues around the company to the people most qualified to respond to them (all practitioners, not marketing or PR people).The key to engagement is that providers do not try to control the conversation, as in traditional marketing, but that they influence the conversation in the following ways:
- Find relevant online communities and blogs and build relationships with discussion leaders and members
- Become regular contributors to influential blogs and be willing to weigh in on issues not directly related to the company’s products and services
- Respond to customer complaints
- Link customers to more information and offer to follow up directly
Managing means that companies take an active role in creating conversations about the company. Examples include:
- Corporate blogs. If companies can break their traditional habits of trying to control the conversation and squashing criticism, corporate blogs can help improve perception and awareness. Corporate blogs can be managed by marketing, but shouldn’t be written by marketing. Customers want to hear from subject matter experts and influencers.
- Public and private online communities. Besides creating online communities in business-oriented third-party hosted social media venues like LinkedIn, companies can start their own communities, both public and private. For example, Indian outsourcing and consulting company Infosys developed points of view about four emerging trends in global business: the growing impact of emerging economies such as India and China, demographic shifts in age and working populations around the world, technology ubiquity, and increased regulations. It then created multiple hosted forums, both public and private (C-level executives often prefer private communities because they fear speaking up about their companies in uncontrolled public communities). These communities have both online and offline components, and Infosys’ marketing group works to build participation by publicizing the communities and inviting key customers and influencers to participate.
Social media efforts need to be integrated into a company’s more traditional marketing channels such as conferences, events, reference programs, and websites. Social media is notoriously difficult to measure and ROI is unclear. Therefore, social media should be used as a platform to drive traffic to the channels that are easier to measure and have proven ROI. There should also be a way to get customers and prospects from social media into systems for tracking and managing interactions (e.g., CRM).
As I mentioned in my last post, social media can also become a supply chain for the development of thought leadership.
The integration of social media with more measurable channels—downloads of the white paper that lead to a sale, or the conference presentation that result in a sales call, for example—is the most reliable way to demonstrate the value and ROI of social media.
What do you think?