Social Media: It’s All Part of a Master Plan…or Is It?

Twitter presence…CHECK

Facebook Brand Page…CHECK

YouTube Channel…CHECK

Socialized Business Strategy…TBD

While showing up to the party represents a noteworthy effort, a bona fide social media strategy this checklist does not make. Creating presences, listening to conversations tied to keywords and superfluously responding to updates and questions creates a facade of engagement that is at best trivial. And, quite frankly, without a true investment of intention, attention and conviction (I.I.A.C.), we minimize the opportunity before us as well as the thoughts, emotions, and overall potential of our communities rich with would be advocates and influencers.

Much of my time these days is spent working with businesses to first deepen their understanding of social media and subsequently broaden their outlook for what’s possible. As a result, we flip the switch to a more sophisticated level of creativity, vision, and execution. So, when I stumbled across recent research that reported most businesses claim that they are operating with a genuine social media strategy, I was surprised and also unsurprised. Many executives and brand managers believe that once social media shifts from pilot programs to a dedicated function, regardless of goals, objectives, purpose, or capacity, it becomes strategic.

In June 2010, King Fish Media, HubSpot and Junta42 published an interesting report, “2010 Social Media Usage Attitudes and Measurability: What do Marketers Think?”

According to the results, 72% of businesses claim to operate under a banner of social media strategy. 27% stated that they did not possess an official strategy. The trio surveyed 457 US marketers and managers, with 52% of the respondents representing the publishing, media, advertising, and marketing industries.

Companies with a Social Media Strategy, June 2010

While these numbers indicate maturation and comprehension, I question the definition of “social media strategy.”

To the contrary, a May 2010 study by Digital Brand Expressions found that 52% of social marketers are running social media programs without a defined “game plan.” This finding was in line with an April report by R2Integrated that documented one-half of marketers were reacting to social rather than leading it.

The study also found that a majority of the businesses polled planned to increase their social media investment over the next 12 months.

Companies that Plan to Increase their Social Media Investment in the Next 12 Months

Defining Social Media Strategy

Social media are measured by the sum of its parts. In general, many strategies I’ve reviewed are designed to generate visibility. Social services such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, et al., represent syndication channels to push content. Listening tools are then used to measure activity, responses, reach, and sentiment. In addition, the activity that fills the columns of a brand, community or social media manager’s “brand dashboard” triggers responses, conversations and engagement that do not contribute to overall business performance metrics or missions. I believe, there are differences between visibility and presence. In social media, presence is felt. Presence is driven by a strategy and architecture designed to inspire impressions, evoke guided responses and drive desired outcomes. This affects brand and go to market strategies as well as brand promises.

Consumers, or let’s just say people, are learning how to navigate social networks more than we may think or credit. They are defining and personalizing their experiences based on who they connect with, what they consume, share, and discover, and in turn, what they publish. Simply earning a response, “like,” RT, comment, or the coveted follow, does not equate to anything more than a moment in time. Friends, Fans, Followers (The 3Fs) are neither KPIs or metrics worthy of establishing or measuring a social media strategy.

Social media is bigger than any one departmen. A true 360 approach will eventually socialize and transform organizations, processes, and platforms from inside-out to now also include outside-in perspectives and all that it inspires.

Marketing
Service
Product Development (R&D)
Sales
HR/Employee Relations
Communication
Finance

We have much work ahead of us and together we will lead social media from the confiinments of corporate silos and weave it into the very fabric of the brand and organization.

The socialization of business is a sophisticated framework of reimagined philosophies, business processes, supporting technologies, each enlivened by the cast of characters who faithfully portray the brand and its personal characteristics.

Social Media programs are not rewarded with participation ribbons simply for their existence. Recognition, response, and trust are the rewards for the investment of ongoing, thoughtful, and personalized listening (really listening, not monitoring) and engagement.  Programs and actions rooted in empowerment galvanize advocacy and loyalty. And, strategies built with processes that feed into decision making cycles that lead companies to innovate and adapt through outside-in learning ensure relevance and contribute to legacy.

A true social media strategy socializes the entire business as well as the individual pieces that perform dedicated functions – both inbound and outbound. Again, when integrated, social media is measured by the sum of its parts and the interconnection of strategies and processes and as a result, starts to construct the hallmarks of sCRM.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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