5 categories defining what social media really is all about

Defining what we mean when we use the term “social media” isn’t always that easy. Are we talking about the tools, technologies, the people, the marketing campaigns or maybe website features? Social media is undoubtedly a very broad term that could almost mean anything today.

For businesses this broad and vague term of social media often pose a problem, they know they have to do something, but not really exact what.

Ever came across the marketing guy complaining that his social media efforts are not working or paying off. Did it sound something like this:

I’m Johnny and I’ve setup a facebook fan page and I’m on twitter. We have some followers and fans but we’re not getting any new customers. God damn it! Social media is not working!

The problem Johnny has is that he’s exclusively looking to social media as a marketing acquisition tactics. I’m going to introduce you to 5 social media categories that better exemplifies how social media can be used throughout the organisation.

Charlene Lee and Josh Bernhoff at Forrester research have written a great book about social media called “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies”.

In this book they have identified 5 clear categories of social media, based on what you as a business can do:

  • Listen
  • Talk
  • Support
  • Energize
  • Embrace

Listening to the social web

This is probably the most important category of social media. Listening can be done in many ways and it can fulfil many purposes. On of the most common application for listening would be customer service outreach on the web. But R&D, product teams and sales also have pretty straight forward applications for listening tools.

Listening, or monitoring, of the web is nothing new. But it has become incrementally important as the volume of USG (User Generated Content) grows. Before the explosion of social networks and blogs we could rely pretty well on search engines crawling the web. Whilst this still works well for static webpages, you may benefit from dedicated monitoring tools for blogs, forums and social networks to keep up with the rising amount of content.

Such tool works just like a search engine as it crawls the web and returns data based on the keyword you input. However, unlike a normal web-search engine you can manage the data pretty much as you want. Categorize mentions by type, look for trends, sort per languages and web pages. Most social media monitoring tools would also cater for basic wok flow management such as a simple ticketing system or likewise which would be appreciated by customer service, if that is the application you’re looking for.

Talking in the social web; deliver value to earn attention

This is probably the social media category that seems most straight forward to most marketing & sales people. Mind the difference in talking and shouting. The difference is to have a dialogue, or at least open up for one rather than shout out your message. Interrupting your audience is less effective in social media channels as everything is built around some kind of network building where you have to earn peoples attention. Why spend time and efforts on talking to people that don’t want to be talked to?

The old rules applies, listen before you talk. This way you’re in a much better position to engage in discussions. Would you stand up in a crowd and just shout something about your product before hearing what the crowd is talking about?

Since setting up profiles, accounts and channels on social sites typically are free it is tempting to jump into everything that comes a cross. Whilst populating your branded content on as many profiles as possible may have some short term success it is neither a successful long term strategy or a scalable one.

Google was built to deliver the most relevant content to the web users, social networks built for people to interact with friends and finding like minded people (reading tips: Seth Godin’s Tribes). You either try to interrupt as many people as possible, or you try earn peoples attention by delivering value.

“Delivering value” is of course very subjective. It could be humor, education, financial incentives etc. It cannot be said too many times, the strategy of delivering value in order to earn attention must be backed by a real business objective of yours. What do you most want; 200K views on Youtube or €200K in new sales?

Support, making customer service outreach on the social web

Supporting involves both listening and talking but focuses on helping customers and prospects. As you listen and monitor the web you might come across people with problems needing solutions. Would these have reached your normal inbound customer service channels?

There are great social media tools for identifying discussions, talks and mentions requiring customer service outreach. Brandwatch would be one of the most most well known tools for larger enterprises where as Google Alerts might be just enough for the small business.

It’s easy to understand why we’re seeing a growing trend of moving into customer focused organisations. In the past, unhappy customers didn’t have that many ways of getting heard. At best they would get help using the company’s inbound customer service channels. A bad reputation would spread mouth to mouth via friends but it didn’t have the tools for amplification that we see today.

As we saw above in the Forrester technographics, web users are just like in the real world differently motivated to post critics online. You may plan and be worried about bad press but when in reality that forum post ranking on the first page of Google, that influential blogger or those well connected twitter users, are costing your business. Gathering this intelligence is the first step, assessing and fixing it is the second.

Energizing, how to empower your customers

Who are your brand evangelists? I’m aware of the buzzword but all businesses have a core group of customers more likely than others to talk well about you. These may not be your most profitable customers however. Identify these individuals or groups and empower them helping spreading the message. Your happy customers are your best salespeople, make sure they have the tools to talk about you.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular management tool to measure customer loyalty, developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company. Using a score from 1-10 one try to understand who the promoters and detractors are i.e. who’s most likely to recommend your business to their connections. By simply using a questionnaire customers have to rate questions about the likeliness of promoting the business, products or brands to their connections.

Another way of finding your brand evangelists is to again use the application of listening to the web. Whilst NPS will tell you who’s potential to promote you, listening will tell you who’s actually doing it.

So what does it mean to empower customers and brand evangelists? It’s a strategy with many possible tactics, all depending on your particular business. Amazon energizes customers by allowing reviews and ratings on all products. Can a mobile website or application help empower your customers?

Putting social sharing on your site such as Facebook Social plugins, tweet buttons and social bookmarking may be simple technical solutions to implement, but just because users are energized doesn’t mean will use their empowerment.

Windows energized their customers with Windows 7 home party

With the 2009 launch of Windows 7, Microsoft took help of marketing site Houseparty.com to facilitate for a carefully selected segment of of Windows customers to arrange a paid for house party.

40,000 house parties where held around the world in 12 countries which turned out to be a success. Microsoft had struggled with earlier versions of Windows and version 7 had to be good or else XP may still have been the dominating operating system.

The house party couldn’t affect the product, but since Microsoft where sure about there product it helped amplify the positive words from customers.

Embracing, using your customers in your business

Turning customers into a resource for innovation. With all the tools available for having a dialogue it hasn’t been easier to invite your customers to take part of product development and innovation. Why not allocate 20% of your development teams time to project suggest by your customers?

By using tools such as Getsatisfaction or Uservoice you can easily gather and manage your customers feedback, whilst at the same time informing them of what’s next in the pipeline.

Challenge the perception of social media

If you take a closer look at the above 5 social media categories, are these solely marketing activities? Well, depends on how you define marketing but in essence you should by able to draft activities based on these categories that involves most parts of your organisation. These 5 social media categories shows that social media is not solely a marketing activity.

Use the 5 key areas of social media either as your strategies or simply for educational purposes when you convey your message on what social media is all about.

About Joakim Nilsson

I've this thing that I'm obsessed with helping brands and organisations to make better use of their social media data... so in 2013 I launched the SCRM Cloud, now a Paris based Social CRM agency providing some of the biggest names and brands with technology and professional services for social media monitoring, analytics and engagement. My +10 years experience in various online marketing & communications roles have provided me with a solid grounding in both operations and strategy, most notably as Head of social for one of Europe's largest iGaming groups. Having an entrepreneurial mindset and genuine passion for Internet applications spending part of my time as a small seed investor with various Internet start-ups such as; Curious Hat (500startups), Casumo, Casino Saga, FundedByMe, Nordic Design Collective, Kyoogi, AvalanShare, Unified Inbox, Åre Water, Virtuous Vodka and NOA Potions.

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