Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Without a Strategy, There Is No ROI

Guest post by Danna Vetter, VP, Consumer Strategies, ARAMARK – Part 3 in a series

Have you ever started a meeting without an agenda? Driven your car with no destination? How about gotten surgery before diagnosing a need? While some of those options may seem like refreshing changes, it’s not the way you run your business. But that is exactly what it’s like when you start a social media campaign without a strategy that ties to real business needs.

At ARAMARK, a multi-billion dollar, private food, facility, and uniform services company, we have created a central social media team that not only reinforces the need for our businesses to create social and digital strategies– they also partner with the businesses to develop those strategies and provide the training and resources needed to enable them.

Like every new marketing technique, social media is that shiny object you can’t get your eyes off. But this time, it’s free. And quick. And easy. And everyone’s got a new channel. If you don’t move fast, you’ll be behind the competition.

But here’s the bottom line – when you create channels and get to strategy later, your site is more likely to fail. There is a good chance you will start with a full head of steam. But by giving yourself no real direction or the accountability of a strategy, your channel has a high probability of dying a very public death, joined possibly by a hallow Twitter egg, months or years of inactivity, and, oh yeah, the company name.

Social media channels cannot be tests. While there is the lowest barrier of entry to create these channels, they are still living, breathing examples of your company and its reputation. What you do on these channels matters and everyone is responsible for how that is represented. We ask our people not “what would happen if you set up this channel?”, but “what would have happen if you didn’t set up this channel?”

In everything marketers do, we stress clear objectives and measureable goals. Yet in social media, it sometimes all seems lost. What you do in social media, traditional media, or any media HAS to add up to some bigger and greater business goals. If you are not clearly defining, chasing, or building towards those goals, then why are you doing it?

Without a strategy, there can be no ROI. The “R” in ROI implies that there is in fact a return to be had. As such, the return must be defined through objectives and ultimately strategy development.

The advice we give to our business partners is to start simple. We’ve adopted a people-first, technology-last approach where everything begins with desired outcomes. As Brian Solis often says, People are the 5th P of Marketing. To get our teams off the ground we look at the following 5W’s + How

Who: Identify and target the people you are trying to reach

What: Learn what are they saying and what is important to them.

When: Determine how often are they engaging and when to engage in real-time and at the right time.

Where: Discover the networks, communities, and technologies that facilitate conversations as you design a “build and/or join” approach.

Why: Define why we should engage, why customers will value our engagement, and why this makes business sense for us based on our objectives and goals.

How: Develop a strategy that communicates how you will add value to the community, the bottom line, and the technologies and channels that will enable engagement and desired outcomes.

Aligning business objectives with the 5W’s shapes relevant and meaningful strategies and goals to reach those objectives.

In our world, our teams don’t have the time or the resources to get things wrong. And there are rarely second chances. So we have to get it right the first time. Sometimes that means going all-in on one social channel rather than having presence on three or four. When you have limited time and resources and spread yourself too thin across countless social channels, that is when you put your company and yourself at risk.

We have gotten to a great point with the leadership at ARAMARK understanding the importance and need to be a part of the social media conversation. We have come too far to do this anyway but the right way. And that way is with fully baked strategies that help us reach our business goals and objectives.

ARAMARK is a private, $13 billion global company that provides managed services (food, facilities, uniforms, etc) for clients in several industries, including sport and entertainment, higher education, healthcare, as well as other general business and beyond. This is the second in a series of posts on how the large company is working to integrate social media into the way it does business.

Part 1 – They all laughed
Part 2 – The 5th P of Marketing is People: Engagement begins within

Follow Danna Vetter on Twitter

Image Credit: Shutterstock

44 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Without a Strategy, There Is No ROI”

  1. Tim Burrows says:

    Fantastic post. Years ago this wan’t really the case. Testing SoMe was a strategy in and of itself where just doing it was enough. We are now seeing the incredible importance of building sound strategies and the training, education and awareness that needs to accompany what we are doing.

    • Tonya Price says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It is encouraging to see the number of Web Strategist positions appearing as companies begin to understand that the key role strategy plays in online success. Not only is it important to understand how to formulate your social media strategy it is also imperative to understand how to integrate that strategy into your overall online plan.

  2. Excellent tips the timing is one of the most important parts of the plan. People don’t understand what is happening if you think about it in terms of strategy then you will see it more clearly.

    Kind of like how a theater presents a play. They know in advance how the plot will develop and what will happen in the end.

    You don’t have to know the result just know how you will get there and go. Thanks for sharing.

  3. It is obvious that social media is the new way to reach out to customers in the new inbound marketing theory. However, with Facebook making drastic changes with advertising options (i.e. making it so companies can advertise on people’s timelines that have not “liked” them). Will people start to leave these heavily congested social media platforms for fresher options (leave Facebook for Google+)? How can marketers get their messages across in a way that is…not annoyingly spammy?

    • Bruce Kirby says:

      You make a very good point Illana. Facebook, although far from finished, is losing its lustre because it has a weak business model, if it ever had one. The culture of free that exists on the Internet indicates that people will move on to the next big free thing.

  4. Deb Dennison says:

    Here, here. I agree. Dabbling in silos is not enough.

  5. Kyra Schaefer says:

    I think Google+ is going to win out over Facebook in time. The “Disruptive Technology and how to compete for the future” post was really good. I think this post has some ideas that could be considered “givens” at the core, but the message is clear and simple: strategy first over slinging mud on the wall to see what sticks.

  6. Guest says:

    Very well said! Managers often don’t understand the
    necessity of a clear and documented Social Media Strategy. You made a very good
    point, “important not only for business managers, but for communication
    specialists everywhere”. Also, I would
    like to add that the “why” part is, in my experience, the basis for every
    successful social media strategy.
    Setting a clear and relevant goal to your strategy helps you determine
    all the other “W’s” and the “How”.

  7. Amy Fey says:

    Very well said! Business managers often don’t understand the necessity of a clear and documented Social Media Strategy. You made a very good point, “important not only for business managers, but for communication specialists everywhere”. Also, I would like to add that the “why” part is, in my experience, the basis for every successful Social Media Strategy. Setting a clear and relevant goal to your strategy helps you determine all the other “W’s” and the “How”.

  8. Hi Brian you have hit the nail on the head without a strategy there IS no ROI! During my social media consulting I have found a lot of small businesses are struggling to identify their targeted audience which I feel is so paramount as you have indicated …

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