The arguments around social media and business value have rumbled on for long enough. There are those businesses that have embraced it and those that still hold out, chanting the ROI mantra and saying while it’s all very pretty, it’s not for them.
Let’s ignore those that don’t get it. Either they are so incredibly successful with their high-value niche services that they feel supremely smug and comfortable in their complacency (they’d better watch out!), or (how should I put this?) they just don’t get it.
For others who have been racing to adopt and experiment, many are still in the discovery phase and the activities are not seen as being core to the business. Last night over a quiet pint of ale in the village pub, I was chatting to a friend who runs a small but growing business. I found his view to be one that is echoed across organisations big and small.
“If someone knocked on my door and said they’d do it all for me, I’d say thanks very much, pay them the cash and then I could get on with running the business,” he said
And therein lies the problem. Social media engagement needs to be bolted into business activities, it needs to be seen as core. McKinsey & Co, in a new report entitled “Demystifying Social Media” is blunt.
“As the marketing power of social media grows, it no longer makes sense to treat it as an experiment.“
The report, written by Roxane Divol, David Edelman, and Hugo Sarrazin, is no-nonsense in asserting that “today’s chief executive can no longer treat social media as a side activity run solely by managers in marketing or public relations.”
It goes on to explain that it is more than just another marketing activity.
“it demands … a clear framework to help CEOs and other top executives evaluate investments in it, a plan for building support infrastructure, and performance-management systems to help leaders smartly scale their social presence.”
Handled correctly, the authors say, companies can create critical new brand assets (such as content from customers or insights from their feedback), open up new channels for interactions (Twitter-based customer service, Facebook news feeds), and completely reposition a brand through the way its employees interact with customers or other parties.
That’s powerful stuff.
Central to the thinking is that while social media can influence customers at every point within their journey, it doesn’t mean that it should. Indeed, some touch points are much more important than others when it comes to creating competitive advantage and setting yourself apart from others.
The are four rules:
- Monitor – Knowing what’s said online about your products and services;
- Respond – By responding rapidly, transparently, and honestly, companies can positively influence consumer sentiment and behaviour;
- Amplify – Design marketing activities to have an inherently social motivator that spurs broader engagement and sharing;
- Lead – Social media can be used most proactively to lead consumers towards long-term behavioral changes.
“Despite offering numerous opportunities to influence consumers, social media still accounts for less than 1 percent of an average marketing budget” (McKinsey & Co)
The time is ripe for executive-suite discussions on how to lead and to learn from people within your company, marketers outside it, and, most of all, your customers.