If you’re looking for ways to figure out how to finally understand how social media can help your business this year, here’s one of the most important things you can do: Forget everything you’ve been told about social media.
- Forget what social-marketing agencies have been wildly promoting.
- Forget what industry analysts having been boldly predicting.
- Forget what social media listening vendors have been over-promising.
Start this year with a new approach to your social media strategy. A strong case of “social media amnesia” may be your best marketing move in 2013.
For five years running, social media continues to be one of corporate America’s biggest enigmas — an incredibly valuable new way to reach and connect with customers while at the same time being one of the most underutilized and misunderstood capabilities in the world of marketing and research.
Even the advent of the World Wide Web didn’t create this much head scratching by marketing executives around the world. A study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Center for Leadership Development and Research, “Social Media Use Among Directors and Senior Managers,” found that only 34% of directors and executive management have even a modest understanding of the impact social and digital media have on their companies.
Since we all first heard the term “social media,” companies have focused their attention primarily on three areas.
- Utilizing social networking to amplify corporate and product marketing messages
- Implementing social-listening technologies to track consumer conversations
- Launching early-stage social customer servicing operations to address product complaints on popular sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
While none of these initiatives are bad, they are far from a coherent and integrated strategy that brands will need to prosper in the era of social business. A misconception that has hampered the development of more cohesive strategies is that social media started as a passive corporate activity whereby brands tracked consumer conversations to gauge what people thought about “after-the-fact” product launches and events. Engagement, the act of communicating marketing messages, soon followed thereafter.
Now is the time to start thinking and acting differently. Before you spend another dollar on social media, start by asking, and more importantly, answering three key questions:
- How can social media improve our business?
- How do we benchmark in social media where we are in each business area?
- What are the KPIs to measure progress moving forward and inform future investments?
Why would any smart business appropriate budget to social media initiatives without having these answers in place first?
The primary shift in this type of approach is that social media becomes part of the process from planning through execution – just like every other part of a successful business today. It moves your company away from the ad-hoc tactical approach that has prevailed over the first five years of the corporate social media generation. Here’s a simple model to use as you start to rethink your 2013 social strategy:
This simple decision to elevate social media from a niche portion of your marketing and research to a strategic part of your overall strategy will pay big dividends in 2013 – and be something to remember in 2013 – rather than something to forget.
Mike Spataro is a vice president of social media with Nielsen-McKinsey Incite, a leading provider of market research, social media intelligence and business advisory services. He can be reached on Twitter @mikespataro or on LinkedIn.