How to achieve REAL results through Social Media

What makes certain companies better at social media than others? Do they have any secrets into Facebook Fan acquisition or do they have a master social ninja guarding their e-reputation? Ultimately what’s the secret sauce to achieving success with social media? The answer: there are no giant secrets.

In this post I want to shed light over the misconception of a few things a) Hire a social media manager (even sometimes also known as ninja, guru, expert) and you’re business will flourish b) What makes certain companies benefit more from social media than others?

To illustrate this I’ve used two stereotypical businesses as described by Philip Kotler. One that operates as in the Old Economy, the other one having made the transition into organising and operating around the New Economy.

Fig2. Table from Marketing Management – Eleventh Edition, Jan 2002, Philip Kotler

How Old Economy businesses approach social media

Old Economy businesses tends to approach social media tools & technologies straight forward tactical rather than strategic.

During the past years we’ve seen businesses rushing into setting up a presence on Social media networking sites. Most often this setup looks much like a hub and spoke (not to confuse with Altimeter’s hub and spoke model for internal organisation of social media). The objective given to the hub and spoke social media setup is to; 1) Grow each social media network profile as large as possible 2) Then  convert as large percentage as possible into transacting customers.

Recognize your own business here?

Fig2. Replace “Website” with your retail store or any other point of sales you may have.

Now you may ask yourself what’s wrong with this model? Well, at first look it seems like a smart and simple tactic, easy enough to sell to anyone in the company and get funding for.

Now the problem is simply that unless you’re already a very big brand, can afford to spend a lot of money or  will invite the whole of your customer base to join these channels – growing your social network presence and achieving any profitable results will prove very difficult.

Here’s why:

  • Your focus is on profitable transactions, not on nurturing your community. As the later is still, with numbers, hard to prove profitable, it will not be given the resources needed.
  • It becomes a numbers game where you “spray and pray” all your promotional content and hope it will reach its potential target audience.
  • You’re working in a silo, marketing does the marketing so social media handles the social media channels
On the contrary, let’s look at the upsides of the hub and spoke model:
  • Easy to track, measure and report on. Keeps the social media manager of the program somewhat “safe” for a while.
  • Any gains from direct sales or attributed leads, or positive  upsides to the companies various SEO-efforts.
  • Can make a great “content in-bound marketing”-program
  • It will fast track the company into understanding the need of  social media tools & technologies as a strategic asset
  • Given the above, a long term effect of that may be a new organisation operating as a New Economy business.
There are examples of companies that have had great success with the hub and spoke though. Dell setup a Twitter Outlet back in 2007 and has since generated millions in direct revenue. But Dell is not an Old Economy business.

The reason Old Economy businesses shapes a hub and spoke model is because they view social media as just another set of communication channels. Another set of channels needs an other team and an other manager. Teams needs objectives, and since these teams most often sits in something like Marketing/Communications, the same departmental objectives are going to adhere to the social media channels as well.

I call this “social media marketing” just having a social presence, and I believe that it is the most a Old Economy business can achieve with social media. It may be sufficient for the time being, but smart businesses will be keen on exploring all the other opportunities present.

Facebook created the huge hype, but Social Media tools and technologies aren’t new

If we go back and look at Fig 2 above, it’s worth noting that I’ve copied this table from my Marketing Management book I had in university 2002. But no one was talking about “the power of social media” back then, why is this relevant now? It’s true that Facebook didn’t have 850M active users in 2002 (well, it wasn’t even founded), so there wasn’t much for the mainstream press to create headlines about.

Nevertheless, what we today classify as social tools and technologies where already flourishing in the late 90’s. Here are a few examples:

  • ICQ made Instant Messaging mainstream
  • Web chats to be seen on every second website
  • Forums has been around since the birth of the www
  • Lunarstorm, Swedish social network founded in 1999 which was popular by my age group (failed to scale and grow out of the baby stage. Something facebook was more lucky with 5 years later)

As we all know, change doesn’t happen over a day. The current rush to anything social media didn’t just come out of nowhere, it has been slowly building up post 2001 dot-com bubble, and where are probably right now seeing one of its peaks. Just like in pre dot-com bubble where everyone rushed to have an Internet presence, businesses are now rushing to have a social media presence. And of course  the shiny-new-object-syndrome plays a part in this, dangerous because what you do is quickly becoming a distraction from what really matters.

On the other hand companies that turned customer centric, and back then started strategies around how to best operate in an online landscape where customers have a growing voice, are the ones leading today (referring to “the social space”). The rest which has been struck by the social media hype only in the last year, and panic over what to do on Facebook, will have at least a few years in front of them; 1) going through the hub and spoke with just maintaining a social presence 2) unless something radical happens to the media landscape, re-organise as a New Economy business.

How does New Economy businesses use social media tools and technologies?

This company will be able to integrate the use of social media tools and technologies in a much more profitable way. Most likely the business will probably already have a well defined and integrated social media program.

There are a few essential points to why a New Economy business will succeed better with social media (marked as bold in Fig 2):

  • Everyone does the marketing
  • Build brands through behaviour
  • Focus on retention and growth
  • Underpromise, and overdeliver

Why are these so important factors for social media? First of all, everyone does the marketing is so true today. But they sometimes also do the un-marketing. You know all the examples already where nasty customer complaints ended up having viral exposure, the guy who spat on the pizza and the famous broken guitar. Although these are somewhat unlucky examples, there will just not be any room for bad products and services going forward. Now your Customer Service rep is in charge of marketing as much as your guy with the budget over display media.

But your product expert is now also a marketing guy, his blog about product XYZ may become more popular that your corporate website. Just look at SAAB’s dull newsroom with zero comments  and compare to their enthusiastic blogger Steven Swade running Inside Saab (whom which they ended up hiring after a while). Rest assure that Mr. Swade is not being told to, or measured on, increased foot traffic in Saab’s showroom’s.

Brand management is essential, but just like marketing it is not just something you craft up in a powerpoint and ship to your agency. The way you and your employees act as a business, and the way your socially connected customers response, ultimately shapes your brand.

Whilst focusing on retention and growth will supposedly make your customers more happy, this must be a good thing when customers are connected to each other no? Compare this to a acquisition focused organisation with high churn rate, what kind of things would you think that company name is associated with on a Google-search or in the twitter stream?

Underpromise whilst overdelivering is also a strategy focusing on what online footprints you customers will leave. Saying that you are better than you actually are and disappointing customers may have worked when you could feed them TV-commercials all day. But today’s customers researching each purchase may need a different strategy no? I know Zappo’s is a clishé example by now, but look at the mission statement which say “deliver WOW through service“. Now that you do when you set the bar low and exceeds customers expectations.

5 proven strategies to social media tools and technologies

If you’ve been reading my blog in the past you also know that I’m a big fan of Forrester Research’s approach to social media, we call it the 5 key areas in social media. They are essential as it makes to topic more tangible and concrete, you can see them as 5 strategies of which you will need to build actionable programs around.

The whole point is that; in the new Economy you will want to embark on these strategies. You may call them diffrently (Jeremiah Owyang has a good approach to Social media analytics here), whilst before in the Old Economy you didn’t have to. And if your company is still operating as in the past, any social media efforts are bound to stay at hub and spoke level.

Here’s concrete examples of tactics for the 5 key areas for the organisation to undertake:

  • Listen – Advanced monitoring tools will be installed and integrated into a vast amount of areas in the business. Customer Service center/Community managers monitors for brand mentions, the company measures brand sentiment and share of voice, the SEO team looks for link-building and content opportunities and the product team may be following certain industry keywords on the web.
  • Talk – Anyone in the organisation technically has the possibility to speak on behalf of the brand. This ranges from branded content you publish in social channels, to the example above where Saab’s Steven Swade blogs. IBM has thousands of employee’s blogging and Best Buy has trained thousands of employees in the use of social media. They key here is governance, not policing.
  • Support – Today your customer service department is responding to inbound calls. But what about the negative brand mention around the web? Do you assess and engage with these? Are there ways you pro-actively can do customer service outreach? Is closing your eyes for what people say on the web the best strategy, or should you start to fire-fight it? Everyone does the marketing
  • Energize – If a large amount of your customers have a presence on social media sites (some of Facebook’s 850M users must be your customers), is there then anything you can do to make them talk positively about you? Asking them may work, creating the WOW-effect may work even better.
  • Embrace – Can your focus group be found online? Can you actually invite a selected number of customers/prospects into your business? Blackberry did so with their super user program by recognizing key individuals on their customer support forum. Customers felt appreciated and could show their expertise, Blackberry equally happy having outsourced the job for free.

Closing thoughts

There’s nothing wrong with the hub and spoke model above. It’s a great start of a social media program. The problem is the mindset of the business you work for, if they operate as Old Economy business your program will have a tough life and probability never ever see any light beyond the marketing sales silo.

How is it justifiable that companies that adhere to the Old Economy justifies social media failure with the New Economy mindset?

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.
  • Great post, Joakim! Really well thought out and expressed. I couldn’t help think however, that the model is not the problem but how companies use it.

    Of course, if a company wants to just make a token effort and use the latest social media fads because they have to, while not really engaging or “wowing” their audience and genuinely caring about their customers, they will fail, but this could happen with any model.

    To my mind it’s more about the mindset than the model or the tools used. That’s why companies like Zappos can succeed as they have the right mindset from the very beginning.

    Which brings about another problem for Old School established companies – finding a way to get the New School mindset and outlook so as to compete and remain relevant.

    Also, I have to agree with you that silos within businesses are a major obstacle when getting social media to work well.

    Russell Allert

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  • Syntaxfiend

    grammar! your is possessive. you’re is a truncated you are. 

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