There was a time, not so long ago, when many companies flat out refused to acknowledge the rise of social media as a business tool. We’ve since left those days behind, but instead of embracing social tools in an intelligent fashion, many businesses are trying to make up for lost time by latching on to any and all social media trends without a second thought about the costs — or consequences of failure.
Isn’t there a middle ground? Something in between stalwart denial and manic experimentation? During his BlogWorld & New Media Expo presentation in New York City, Edelman Vice President Dave Fleet made the case for a more sustainable social media strategy.
Moving from experimentation with social tools to having a social business means putting your social media efforts in direct competition with your marketing in all other channels. Advocates for social tools will need to be able to make the case for why resources should be allocated to social instead of some other medium — and that’s an argument that can only be won by setting (and then meeting) sound business goals. “Buzz about a tool isn’t a reason to be using that tool … buzz about a tool only benefits the people making that tool,” he said.
The process begins with a better understanding of what a company is actually trying achieve with social, he argues. Many companies have vague objectives that don’t support a company’s business plan (such as “get more followers” or “make a viral video”) and as a result they spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to implement social media tactics. Instead, social media advocates should be setting SMART goals (specific, measures, achievable, relevant and time-bound) that align with what the rest of the company is doing. Then they can work backward to eventually decipher the right strategy and eventually the right tactics that best support those goals. “Stay about the how and the what,” when setting goals, he advises.
Part of the problem that companies have in setting goals for themselves is that social networks produce so much data that it is easy to get distracted. Recent changes to Facebook ensure that corporate users are practically drowning in metrics, making it difficult to decide which numbers truly matter. Too many companies rely on metrics such as ad value equivalency, per-fan value and other multipliers that are based on fuzzy math and fudged figures. These “made-up numbers” create confusion about what a company is trying to accomplish with social media and make it difficult for decision-makers to evaluate the performance of a social media program.
Fleet argues that different people within an organization should be paying attention to different metrics. Community managers, for example, are right to focus on basic metrics like the amount of traffic their efforts are driving. But higher level managers need to look how social is feeding into larger goals, such as word-of-mouth marketing efforts or share-of-voice in a marketplace, while the highest ranking executives should be thinking about big picture terms such as revenue.
These measurement problems are only exasperated by silos within an organization, as information is withheld and goals are often not aligned. Instead, companies should work for an integrated model of social media management, relying on the sharing of both information and line of report. Some companies will set up interdepartmental social media governing councils to make sure resources are being used effectively and everyone has the information they need to make intelligent decisions.
Social media marketing may not be easy to draw into the light — but social media strategists must square their work with the daily life of a business if the discipline is going to remain relevant. Backing away from a focus on shiny objects, setting better goals, measuring what matters and sharing information freely are keys to making that happen.