B.L. Ochman is a Managing Director of Proof Digital Media; publisher of What’s Next Blog, and co-founder of pet site Pawfun.com. Follower her on Twitter at @whatsnext.
Companies large and small are rushing to understand and get involved in social media. But most of the agencies and consultants who are being paid to establish social media campaigns for corporations are afraid to tell their clients three things they don’t want to hear.
1. Everyone Must Work Together
In most big companies, IT, digital, marketing and sales not only don’t work together, they compete with each other. Until they start collaborating as a team, you will not succeed in social media.
For example, I recently handled social media advertising for a major retail chain’s holiday microsite. The promotion was conceived by the digital department and involved augmented reality. But the IT department refused to allow a link from the homepage to the microsite because the microsite’s design was done by an external agency.
Further, the marketing department refused to allow a dedicated e-mail to go out to the company’s mailing list, and when placed in the company’s normal promotional e-mail, the link to the microsite was lost in a sea of weekly specials.
These hurdles made it very hard to drive traffic to the microsite.
But more than that, this lack of internal collaboration and contact makes any kind of social media involvement virtually impossible.
A company that hasn’t learned to listen to its own employees, and encourage them to collaborate internally, is not likely to succeed in integrating social media tools into its marketing mix, no matter what agency or consultant they hire.
2. Top Management Must Be On Board
If the direction doesn’t come from the very top, managers, who have myriad reasons to fear change, will hang on to the status quo.
Despite the best intentions of agencies and consultants, social media integration is bound to meet huge resistance until top management says it’s OK to spend time and money to integrate it into the company’s marketing and culture.
Example: The marketing team of an international manufacturer of electronics wanted to know how the company could begin to use social media and we discussed the many possibilities.
Listening and responding to what customers are saying about the brand in social media can supply good intelligence and give the company a chance to interact with customers.
“Our management doesn’t want to listen to customers,” the PR director said. “They want to talk to them.”
However, that doesn’t work anymore. The status quo is dead. Any company that isn’t willing to listen to customers and be nimble and quick enough to respond, and, when necessary, change, will soon be unable to compete with smart, tech-savvy companies that can turn on a dime.
Willingness to change is the new bottom line for every business today. But top management has to buy in before change can begin.
3. Don’t Expect Overnight Success
Sure there are videos that go viral, contests that attract a lot of buzz, and Facebook pages that get a lot of fans. But what comes after those efforts?
After the tools change (and they surely will) how will social media fit into the company’s overall strategy and help it reach long-term goals?
Example: Smart companies look at the long-term. The Fiskateers, now in its sixth year, is the brainchild of digital agency Brains on Fire, for their client Fiskars.
With the scissors brand losing market share to foreign knock-offs, the company enlisted several actual crafters to blog, attend events, and represent the brand to customers as part of a new community strategy.
“If you empower your customers to become your evangelists, you’d better be prepared to continue it,” says Brains on Fire’s Geno Church. “It’s permanent when you engage in this type of marketing.”
Once you have created the community, listen to it. Fiskars made several changes to its products based on what it discovered through its Fiskateers community. Doing so helped build customer trust and loyalty.
Where Should Your Company Start?
Realizing that employing social media in the marketing mix is a long-term commitment to change, the best way to start is to pick manageable, measurable goals.
Pick a small number of social media goals for the coming year. Some possibilities:
- Turn the company newsletter into an internal blog and give all employees the ability to contribute
- Establish a social media policy for employee participation in social media on company time and beyond
- Let employees vote on the best ideas suggested by other employees
- Resolve to respond to customer service issues within three hours, via social media
Don’t try to do all of these things at once. Pick the ones that are most likely to be possible for your company to start and sustain.