It’s no secret that social media has a credibility problem in the business community, especially when most only see the noise generated by so many of us out there on any particular social network. Many of us also lack credibility on the technology side because we may not fully appreciate how integrating social technology adds a layer of complexity to existing processes. People who come from more technical backgrounds tend to see the communications-dominated social media space as lacking in skills, knowledge and patience to bring their projects to fulfillment, and they’re often right.
Social Media is a Hybrid Discipline
I’m not a coder – I don’t build things on the web, but I do need to know how to tell others what I want things built in language that conforms to their standards and processes (not mine). In an enterprise environment, that’s often easier said than done for someone with little-to-no technical knowledge, which describes most of us with traditional marketing or PR backgrounds.
I didn’t learn this overnight. I’ve always been somewhat techie and my mom made sure to it that we were one of the first people in our zip code with an internet connection; in college I thought for some time I might be a science journalist since I had an aptitude for understanding theoretical math and scientific theory, but my passion was clearly on the communications side of that equation. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t really have the personality to be happy plugging away in a laboratory environment although I have great respect for those who do.
To learn the things I was lacking through formal education and my regular professional development in communications, I researched on my own time and read A LOT. I also started writing this blog to give me a place to continue experimenting with web-based communication. I still ask a lot of questions.
Developing deep enough technical knowledge became my job within my job. As I began to get stronger on the technical side of managing social media, I also began to understand why so many social media programs and practitioners were still scratching their heads over the dreaded question of ROI.
Where Strategy Falls Short
For the record I’m a huge proponent of having a sound social media strategy, but having the tactical knowledge necessary to execute and deliver the right results and measurements is still extremely important.
For example, lots of companies have great social media strategies that focus on building brand awareness, but they choose to build an online community as a means of delivering on that goal. Most online communities do little to build brand awareness with a new audience. In many cases, however, community might be a great way to deliver on a retention-oriented or cause-oriented goal.
Understanding the Role of Social Media in Other Digital Marketing Disciplines
I have said this before: social media doesn’t have an ROI problem, it has an integration problem. Social media rarely delivers value as a stand-alone discipline, but helps other types of digital marketing and web content work more efficiently and reach the appropriate people IF social media activity can accrue to each of those areas. Silos don’t work.
Consumers exposed to a brand via social media conversations AND search marketing are much more likely to seek that company out when it’s time to buy than if they were only exposed in one of those channels. In Scott Stratten’s new book, UnMarketing, he talks a lot about the importance of having meaningful interactions with people way before the sale and how social media enables marketers to do this in a meaningful way. Traditional marketing needs to be a numbers game because they’re focused on targeting broad segments in order to reach the few who may be ready to buy now.
If you’re working as a social media professional, get ready to understand how search marketing works and educate others as to how a social media presence can support that.
- Understand the importance of landing pages as dot-connectors between social networks and your corporate site(s).
- Work as a subject-matter-expert to help inform how to connect the dots between those you interact with in different communities and think of how to make your company more relevant to them based on where they are.
- Understand how Google determines relevance (no, adding metadata will not help you), “Our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance.” If you don’t understand how linking in social networks and blogs can help Google determine the “collective intelligence of the web,” you may be in the wrong business.
Why We Compare Social Media with the Telephone
Marcel Lebrun (and others at Radian6) have done a great job at explaining how brand mentions are a lot like a ringing telephone aka the social phone. Why WOULDN’T you answer if you think of it this way.
In keeping with the telephone analogy, talking to people on the phone doesn’t do much if those conversations aren’t recorded to provide product/service feedback, if people you talk to aren’t informed as to what they can do beyond talking to you on the phone, or if your conversation doesn’t solve their problem.
Turning these conversations into data points that are integrated into other types of business intelligence is crucial.
Social > Techie?
I was inspired to write this post after reading my friend Brian Ambrozy’s post on a similar subject. In his article, he questions the use of Twitter to hold public chats and cites this decision as evidence that those running social media/online community programs aren’t technical enough. I can’t say I necessarily agree, but I found it interesting that one of his commenters said technology is becoming easier to use everyday and that it’s more important to be “social.”
Is there truth in this? Is it better to focus on the social aspect of social media and let the technology take care of itself, or is there much more to developing a sustainable social media strategy?
I have my own ideas, but I’m very interested to know what you think.
Photo Credit: mil8
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