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


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  • http://twitter.com/travelovertures Melani Roewe

    Thank you for this nugget, Brian. I’m inclined to agree with you. I am going to go out and read your book. I have finally hired a firm to handle my social media marketing, because doing all the “easy” steps you outlined above have gained fans – now “likes” but not materialized in hard leads. Even asking the fanbase questions hasn’t resulted in any type of ongoing engagement. Local biz is growing by word of mouth, but not the online biz. Something has to change.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Thank you! This is exactly what we need to do!

    • Jaani Vaisanen

      …and yet, many companies focus on getting as much fans/likes/whatever as possible, and leaving it at that. I appreciate having a large fanbase as much as anyone, but without any meaningful way of identifying the needs and wants of that fanbase and connecting them to your company’s offerings, there’s very little you can do to extract any real value from them. I myself am a fan of God knows how many groups, but unless they are somehow reaching out for ME, I probably won’t be paying any extra attention to them. If anything, I might be thinkng “Okay, I’ve been fan of company X for 6 months now, but haven’t seen any meaningful communication from them in that time. What is wrong with these people?!” Engage. That’s spot on.

  • http://gruvmedia.com/ Grüv Media

    Love this post Brian! “Social Media is fun” is the battle cry of those who favour quick fixes over meaningful outcomes. Social media is hard work for those who endeavour to succeed. It’s also fascinating : )

  • http://www.businessandsoftwarestrategyforglobalisation.com Amelia@ International Business

    It is surprising to know that there are companies which are still reluctant to embrace social media. Perhaps, they haven’t recognized the ROI of social media.

    With this article, businesses should be encouraged to initiate actions to build their brands as well as their products and services by applying social media tools in integration with the marketing aspect of the business.

  • http://www.extremejohn.com Extreme John

    So right Brian! Taking the path less taken can indeed be very rewarding as with Social Media. And what makes it more rewarding is enjoying what we are doing despite the difficulties and the distractions that challenge us.  

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  • Lily

    Definitely some interesting ideas in here. I think social media (for businesses at least) is all about combining fun WITH business and hard work. A good social-media business person should also use social media frequently on his own time. But yeah, social media is definitely providing us with a whole world of information about consumer / customer behavior that’s totally observable and quantifiable in a way it wasn’t before. 

  • http://twitter.com/babu2480 Babu M Varghese

    What a though provoking post!

  • http://www.totallyseo.co.uk Search Engine Marketing

    Truth is that the customer gap continues living previous to social media and
    successfully finishing it takes more than basic conversational or
    content-driven strategies in social networks. The path to engagement is arduous,
    unexplored but easy. all begins with considerate the extent of the gap and what
    it is that people want, could benefit from in order to bring both ends toward
    the middle.

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  • http://www.blog-commenting.com Blog Commenting

    Very inspiring written article with simple but very descriptive content.Many Thanks for sharing with us.Keep sharing in future too.

  • Anonymous

    So, right Brian! When the path less taken it can be very rewarding as social media. And what makes it more rewarding to enjoy what we do, despite the difficulties and challenges distractions.
    search engine optimization company

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    Most of people are looking these types of valuable posts. Keep in touch with us.

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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.

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