As we head into 2011, social media is firmly established as something that most companies should embrace. It’s a “when” rather than “if” proposition given social media’s potential as a new and different communications, marketing and sales platform, as well as the dynamics of the competitive landscape.
That said, one of the most important considerations for companies looking to get into social media is educating themselves. This means getting a firm handle on the opportunities, the different options and how social media can be effectively leveraged.
And it’s something that should happen before a company even considers putting together a social media strategy.
Far too often, companies scramble into social media because there’s a fear the market and competitors are rumbling ahead, and that if they don’t jump into the fray, it will be too late.
Unfortunately, this approach often leads to disappointment because without a good and educated sense of what is happening and how to capitalize on it, companies can easily get little or no return on their social media activities.
What I’m starting to see from companies that haven’t jumped into social media is a growing willingness to educate themselves before they decide to take another step forward. It often means providing executives with a presentation that covers the entire landscape, including the advantages and disadvantages of the different services.
It can also involve something less formal by sitting down for a conversation to hear what’s happening, and then asking questions about different options.
Perhaps the growing appetite for education has to do with the fact that if a company isn’t already in social media, then there is no first-mover advantage. As a result, speed to market is not important.
While a company may not want to sit on the sidelines for too long, the reality is there’s no need to rush things out the door. By taking the time to determine whether social media makes sense, they can pragmatically move forward in a way that has more to do with overall strategy and objectives than simply being active in the marketplace.
For companies weighing the benefits of education vs. action, a recent report by eMarketer looking at the mistakes made by U.S. marketers about social media is an eye-opener.
Among the leading reasons cited by marketers is not having a strategy, not defining goals and objectives, and not setting proper expectations with executives. These are all issues that can be focused on during the education process as opposed to learning them after a social media program has been launched.