In Social Media, Your Return Represents Your Investment

Sometimes the path of least resistance unwinds into a far more complicated and arduous journey than we anticipated. In times of change, taking the path less traveled, although initially daunting, proves easier and far more rewarding in the long run. Such is true for social media.

I read a review about Engage once that read, “Brian Solis takes the fun out of social media.” The author’s point was that the book took an academic approach when the industry could benefit from a simplified focus on best practices, case studies, and actionable takeaways.

Shortly thereafter, I participated in a day-long event at a leading global consumer brand. Following my presentation, the person, a representative from a leading social network, took the stage and started her presentation by slighting the general theme of my discussion. She simply said, “Don’t over think social media. It’s supposed to be fun!”

Between the review, others like it and that on-stage remark, I was starting to think that maybe I was beating the wrong drum. While I appreciate their perspective and their ideas, there are those of us who must march to the beat of our own drummer. This is why my work focuses on how to bridge the gap between customers and businesses, nothing less, nothing more. I focus on accountability, change, innovation and co-creation. It is not easy nor is it supposed to be when your mission is value, starting with the end in mind and working backwards from there.

The truth is that the customer gap existed prior to social media and successfully closing it takes more than basic conversational or content-driven strategies in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. The path to engagement is strenuous, uncharted, and anything but easy. Everything begins with understanding the magnitude of the gap and what it is that people want, are missing or could benefit from in order to bring both ends toward the middle.

No matter how hard we try, we just can’t build a customer-centric organization if we do not know what it is people value. Social media are your keys to unlocking the 5I’s of engagement to develop more informed and meaningful programs:

1. Intelligence – Learn about needs, wants, values, challenges
2. Insight – Find the “aha’s” to identify gaps
3. Ideation – Inspire new ideas for engagement, communication, new products/services, change
4. Interaction – Engage…don’t just publish, bring your mission to life
5. Influence – Influence behavior and in the process, become an influencer

Social media is as effective as its design. The ability to deliver against brand lift, ROI, or an established set of business and operational metrics and KPIs is all in the design. I believe you can not measure what it is you do not, or do not know, to value. As part of a recent study sponsored by Vocus, MarketingSherpa discovered that a majority of social media programs focused on programs that were deemed “fast and easy.” Sound familiar? Indeed, those programs that focus on social media programs that are easy are less effective than those that require a deeper investment of time, understanding and resources.

MarketingSherpa combined three questions about social marketing tactics: The effectiveness to achieve objectives, the degree of difficulty to implement each tactic, and the percentage of organizations using them. Their findings across the board were that “fast and easy” trumps effectiveness.

The tactics with the lowest degree of difficulty and corresponding level of effectiveness include…

- Social sharing buttons in email

- Social sharing buttons on web sites

- Tweeting

- Multimedia creation

- Social advertising

The balance shifts however toward potency as the degree of difficulty escalates. Here we see the following programs carry greater reward for consumers and businesses alike, but as such, you get what you pay for.

- Blogging

- Engagement in social networks

- SMO (Social Media Optimization)

- Blogger and influencer relations

Social media doesn’t have to be void of “fun.” It must offer value and usefulness to be successful.

In the end, the reality is that you get out of social media what you invest in it. But at the same time, experimenting with social media is not anything to discredit. The difference between today’s media and the networks of yore is nothing less than the democratization of information, from creation to consumption to sharing and the equalization of influence.  The marketing landscape has been reset and thus requires a shift from a casual approach to genuine leadership.

1. Start by understanding who you’re trying to reach and what it is they value

2. Design programs that meet the needs of each segment

3. Dissect the keywords and clickpaths of your desirable segments and develop a thoughtful SMO program

4. SMO is only as effective as the content and destinations it’s meant to enhance. Develop content and click paths that matter and deliver value on both sides of the transaction.

5. Identify the individuals and organizations that influence your markets. Learn what it is they value and develop engagement programs that offer tangible value (what’s in it for them and their audiences).

6. #Engage

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook


___
The New ENGAGE!: If you’re looking to FIND answers in social media and not short cuts, consider either the Deluxe or Paperback edition


___
Get The Conversation Prism:


___
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Share
  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Hi Brian,

    I feel the dilemma for many, esp B2B, is how to engage on a large scale and justify the capital layout.

    For example, if you examine the costs of running a Call Center v a Social Media presence, some will chose the call centre as they can influence/engage with customers directly.

    They’d like the Social Media too but budgets only go so far.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hello Ivan, I suppose everything begins with a cost analysis of how well
      B2B sales, marketing and service is performing today and to what
      extent. Doing so gives us something to benchmark social against. In
      regards to the call center example, I guess the question is, “is this
      good enough.” When we run opportunity costs against the people we’re not
      already reaching, those who choose not to come to us. I believe the
      opportunity for greater influence exists when we reach outside of our
      domain.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/mdyoder Michael D. Yoder

    Keep taking the path less traveled, Brian. And, keep sharing the lessons learned.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Will do Michael!

  • http://twitter.com/GabrielleNYC GabrielleLainePeters

    Interesting & Insightful. I also like the term used at the BBC Social Media Summit last week “Open Media” rather than social or new.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hello Gabrielle! It’s a term that I’ve used in the past…”open” is a term that we embrace at Altimeter Group, starting with Open Research. It’s definitely accurate…but with mobile and gamification on the horizon, open is actually moving towards proprietary networking. Something I’m paying close attention to. Will be back in London soon!

  • http://twitter.com/garthlyerly Garth

    As always, excellent work. 

  • http://twitter.com/willrussell_ Will Russell

    Great post, but if I were to add anything it would be that “it’s all relative”. A large company can make little effort and gain a lot, while a small, local business will have to put in a lot more resources to get a fraction of the return. No doubt that investment & return are relative to one another, but for some the graph will be a lot steeper than for others.

  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    “Brian Solis takes the fun out of social media.” The author’s point was that the book took an academic approach when the industry could benefit from a simplified focus on best practices, case studies, and actionable takeaways”
    Sold.  Kindle edition of Engage is downloading right now.

    Fun, in my world, is sitting 400 yards offshore at Ocean Beach waiting for some massive swell to a-frame right at my shoulder.

    Everything else is just *work*.

  • Melissac

    Brian – I read your blog regularly – usually late at night when I have the time to actually focus on the content. It’s ironic that tonight I had just typed an email to a colleague that the blog we have at my work (Wolf Trap – a very neat place to work) which we are just trying to ramp up – could easily be my full time job – though it is not. Then I looked at your post. Social media is not easy. It can be fun and it is rewarding and interesting. But no it’s not easy. I actually find that rewarding and interesting are usually not adjectives that go hand in hand with the word easy. Just thought I’d chime in – your post /thoughts came at the right moment for me.

    Thanks! I keep meaning to start your book – soon.

    Melissa Chotiner – at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
    http://wolftrapinsider.blogspot.com/

     

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Melissa, I love this comment. Keep up the hard word!

    • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

      Melissa, I’m definitely with you on all points. Especially with rewarding and interesting not going with “easy.”  Per my comment above, I don’t find rewarding and interesting need go with “fun” either. I do, however, very often find work rewarding and interesting!

      I haven’t started reading either, Engage is next up (After Cory D!).Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, USPS issued a Wolf Trap stamp when I was a kid, and the name just fascinated me. Very cool it’s as neat a place to work as it ought to be.

  • http://twitter.com/bryanrhoads Bryan Rhoads

    “Social Media is fun” is how I start all my executive presentations at Intel as this is the surest way to get funding #ahem #not

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Brilliant Bryan!

  • http://friedmansocialmedia.com Brad Friedman

    Brian, I’m about half way through Engage! I can’t help but think I’m missing something in the Kindle version and may attempt to confirm that at a bookstore.  But that’s not why I’m commenting on this post.  I for one appreciate the academic approach you take.  There are plenty of books out there that take the simplified approach and provide best practices, case studies and actionable takeaways. Those books serve their purpose but Engage! is exactly what I was looking for.  What could be more important than bridging the gap between customers and businesses? I appreciate your approach, focus and perspective on the industry. Thank you.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Interesting Brad, curious to know more. Bridging the gap is now more possible than ever before…we just need to embrace and support it. Keep up the great work Brad.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanCritchett Ryan Critchett

    It is uncharted. Guess that’s what makes it art. I love the reinforcement here, and some new critical identifications as well Brian. I spent some time in the Army as a cav scout, and when we did urban warfare (room clearing) training, we were always told to take the path of least resistance. 

    Turns out, that’s one of the only situations following that advice is good for. However, I’m thrilled that there are still millions of companies, (and will continue to be) that spend a lot of time trying to engage in some quick “strategy,” without really rolling up their sleeves. They give us a lot to talk about and we can help them to make the systemic and behavioral changes necessary to actually compete in an intellectual evolution and collective paradigm shift.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Right on Ryan. Love the story about least resistance. Thanks for the feedback and the support!

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Right on Ryan. Love the story about least resistance. Thanks for the feedback and the support!

  • Steve Krizman

    Keep banging the drum, Brian. Figuring this stuff out IS fun.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      You got it Steve.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      You got it Steve.

  • Crazeetwit

    great arti9cle a must read for all social media enthusiasts  hungry for more  - 

    regards
    @twittingtool:disqus  

  • Srosen

    It’s quite a challenge to keep up with social media when you’re a new site like htpp://ShivaConnect.com, introducing a new concept, (free online information, notification and coordination for sitting shiva) for a subject no one likes to talk about!  

  • http://twitter.com/heatherread Heather Read

    Well said. I thoroughly don’t understand people that dismiss an academic approach. These are probably the same people who work at big agencies and submit the atrocious Silver Anvil entries that I read each year. No research – no strategy, no measurement – just tactics. It’s so sad that these people rise to a level of prominence where they are speakers…

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Thank you Heather!

  • http://www.henne-digital.com Christian Henne

    Thx for this Brian. To me, this a holistic point of view that is really needed in digital strategy. The only question for me is if we’re talking about Social Media only or digital communications in general.

  • http://www.henne-digital.com Christian Henne

    Thx for this Brian. To me, this a holistic point of view that is really needed in digital strategy. The only question for me is if we’re talking about Social Media only or digital communications in general.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hello Christian, thank you for your comment. Digital…

  • http://twitter.com/stanchew Stan Chew

    Great article. Thanks for putting all these together. I’ve been getting one of my clients to embark on a social media program for the entire company but one of the barriers they face is integrating the different functional departments together on this, which would be crucial to their success. A social media program should not be limited to the marketing team, it crosses into the PR, Customer service, Sales team as well. Any thoughts on how to bridge this gaps? 

  • Anonymous

    This article made sense to me. I really love the term ‘customer-centric organization’. I am fairly new to social media, and trying to find my place in it.  I hear another little piece, clicking into place.
    PS: I LOVE your profile photo.  I don’t know why…but I’m strangely disturbed by it…Good Job!

  • http://www.eBizROI.com Rick Noel, eBiz ROI, Inc.

    Hi Brian, there is no doubt that social media is rapidly gaining more prominence in Internet marketing relative to its influence on channels like search engine marketing, and SEO in particular. It’is good that more companies are dabbling so that they can better understand the context and potential. The smart ones will get serious in time to ride the current wave of Social Media value sort of like the early SEOs that have the vision to see where the market was going as far back as the mid to late 90s. There is some interesting correlation data presented by SEOMoz that shows a super strong positive correlation in website ranking based on content likes, shares, tweets, retweets. The value of doing social media well is immense and the work associated with that is also intense. The key is to understand the correlation between social media inputs and anticipated ROI based on projected outcome. Since everyday in Social Media is an evolution, new players enter the market, existing players enhance technology and user experience, constant experimentation is required. Those that excel in social media have HUGE influence, both online and off and are BOTH serious AND passionate, and passionate implies FUN!

  • http://www.seo-services.com Brian Greenberg

    Very interesting article.  With the announcement that social media indicators are now included in the ranking algorithms of the search engines… what are the best ways to achieve increased organic rankings in the search engines?  As this is one of my returns from successful social media.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brian, I just gave a presentation on this at the Social Media Optimization conference. I’ve written about SMO in the past…perhaps its time for an update.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brian, I just gave a presentation on this at the Social Media Optimization conference. I’ve written about SMO in the past…perhaps its time for an update.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brian, I just gave a presentation on this at the Social Media Optimization conference. I’ve written about SMO in the past…perhaps its time for an update.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brian, I just gave a presentation on this at the Social Media Optimization conference. I’ve written about SMO in the past…perhaps its time for an update.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Hi Brian, I just gave a presentation on this at the Social Media Optimization conference. I’ve written about SMO in the past…perhaps its time for an update.

  • Pingback: PR links week 22 - 2011 | Coopr is het hybride PR bureau voor PR 2.0, Online PR, Social Media en Contentmarketing.

  • Pingback: Friday Night Links: Getting Down to Business | Single Grain Blog

  • Pingback: Weekly Link Round Up – 06-03-11 | Social Media Marketing

  • Paige Brockmyre

    Thank you Brian for providing my “Brain Candy”  I love the analytics behind something I call fun!

  • Pingback: Friday’s Social Media and Blog Links | Financial Advisor Website Blog

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish 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. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

Contact Brian

RECENT TWEETS

FLICKR FEED

  • A Good Friday sunset...Maui style.
  • A gorgeous view from the @grandwailea #maui
  • Digital Transformation - Checklist
  • Digital Transformation - The Team

ARCHIVE