Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Moving Beyond Social Media Tactics to Find Business Value

Today’s blog has been written by Marketwire and Sysomos’ COO, Jim Delaney

If you were to believe the recent blog headline “Social Media is a Waste of Time for B-to-B,” then your company may miss an a significant opportunity to create communication that leads to valuable business outcomes.  Given the nascent nature of the Social Media revolution, there is no shortage of headlines like these based on an incomplete understanding of end-to-end business process.   Most posts, like this one, address the value of social media in the context of infrastructure only, detailing the components of the infrastructure that must be in place. Rather than focusing on the infrastructure only, businesses need to think about how social media can support the infrastructure, while also providing high-level business value.

The first question you should always ask is, ”How will social media support my company’s higher level goals, and why do we want to engage in social media?” As an executive and marketer, it’s not that I don’t care about the number of friends, followers, views and retweets.  But, I’m much more interested in seeing a clearer picture of how social media affects my company on a business level. Does social media help us to manage our company’s reputation, augment our customer service program, gain market share, and/or increase employee productivity?

Too often, the focus on social media is tactical communications, with marketing, branding and PR departments rushing to have conversations and share content, without understanding how participation connects to higher-level goals. Simply pumping content through different channels clearly is not enough.  Social media success, of course, is based on several basic best practices including:  a good functional website where you can drive social media traffic, a customer service program capable of answering questions at numerous touch points, a strong industry presence and the resources to support relationship building with your stakeholders.

However, moving beyond the initial infrastructure, you must also look more closely at using social media to create opportunities that result in better:

Reputation Management

Social media allows a company to proactively set up a customer “listening” program with data and insights to determine how your stakeholders think and feel about your brand. Armed with an enormous amount of analytics, you are able to keep a pulse on the market. You are also constantly monitoring customer sentiment and preventing the smallest negative conversations from escalating into what could be a mountain of crisis, by simply being responsive. Addressing issues as they arise is the best way to preserve a thought leadership position and maintain a positive image in an age of public conversations.

Customer Service Satisfaction

Facebook has become a customer service portal, with employee representatives answering questions, offering useful advice and solving problems on your pages. Whether it’s a simple inquiry about your product or a verified complaint, a social network can serve as a helpful forum, opening up a new avenue for stakeholders to praise your service or vent their dissatisfaction. Companies have learned quickly that using Facebook to answer questions cuts down on the call center inquiries, which, in turn, also cuts costs. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of every business. If your stakeholders are participating in social media, then you need to be listening carefully with the right tools to help and solve their issues.

Lead Generation and Sales

The social media million-dollar question is how does community engagement create leads, which convert to product sales?  Where social media analytics end, website analytics begin.  You must track how your social media program drives traffic to your website, and then monitor your stakeholder behavior from there. Using unique landing pages as a part of a Facebook contest or a Twitter promotion allows you to capture leads on the page, and then use the information to further engage with interested parties.  However, if you are not set up properly to capture the social media analytics and track from click to conversation on your website, then you will not be able to see a direct connection between social media participation and potential sales for your company.

Employee Productivity

As much as we rush to communicate through social networks, tremendous value comes from the education and subsequent internal collaboration of your employees.  Training employees to understand, embrace and use social media collectively in their departments and even cross functionally opens up your organization to innovation and idea generation. Collaborative technology can be used from brainstorming new product ideas to strategic planning initiatives. Cutting back on email, and streamlining your process by editing documents in real time, is a great way to increase productivity, and also to assure consistent communications messaging, from champion to champion across the organization.

Of course, if you don’t have the basics down, then there is no way your organization can even begin to think about how social media is tied to increased market share, reputation management, better customer service, enhanced lead generation and greater employee productivity.   Get the basics or infrastructure in place, know what you’re trying to achieve and create a social media plan with strategies that lead to greater outcomes.

If you can think about the higher-level goals first, then you will find social media is not a waste of time. In fact, you will realize it leads to valuable business outcomes.

Keep an Eye on the Prize

When I talk to companies about social media, one of the first questions I ask is “Why do you want to get into social media?”.

In many cases, the reaction is a puzzled look that says “Why are you asking me that? I want to get into social media because I want to get into social media”.

What I’m really asking is “What’s the goal end?”. At the end of the day, what do they want social media to achieve in terms of growing the business? Is it higher sales, improved customer service, a stronger brand or parity with rivals?

Having a goal is often an ingredient within the social mix that is overlooked. There’s so much excitement about the market, the tools and the tactics, that many companies fail to think enough the end result.

Some companies, for example, make a significant investment in social media, and may enjoy success but it has no impact on the top or bottom line. If the original goal was higher sales, then social media, in some respects, has not worked. This means the company may have rethink its concept of success, or recalibrate its social media efforts.

Perhaps the most important consideration for any company getting into social media is articulating a goal from the very start. This lets a company measure against an pre-established benchmark to see if they are having success.

The goal shouldn’t be getting into social media for the sake of getting into social media because that’s not a goal; it is activity or a tactic. Goals should be tangible targets that enhance the business so it can become more successful.

In other words, you need to have an eye on the prize right from the starting line.

Pay Attention to Your Social Media Goals

As companies spend more time embracing social media, there’s a lot of focus on strategic and tactics – what services should be used, who should manage them, and what’s the return on investment.

Another important issue that shouldn’t be overlooked is establishing social media goals so the time, energy and money invested on social media can be deemed to be successful or not. Without pre-established benchmarks, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get a handle on whether the desired goals and objectives have been achieved, and whether strategic or tactical changes should be made.

The challenge is defining your social media goals given that companies may have different targets. These goals can include higher sales, a stronger brand, happier customers, better customer service, increased Web site traffic, lots of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and improved search engine optimization. Companies need to select the most important goals, and then track them.

This may seem like a straightforward exercise with some pretty obvious metrics but, nevertheless, goals are a crucial part of a social media program. To ignore goals would be a terrible mistake.