Social Media Strategies: the difference between enthusiasm and real value. Be realistic in your expectations, target real ROI instead of enthusiasm when hiring a Social Media Expert.
Quite often these days people are asking me:
'what do you think of all those so-called social media experts?'
My standard answer is:
'.. I think it is good to see that there are so many enthusiasts, trying to bring web 2.0 forward..'
Indeed there are quite a lot of people who are offering services on the hype of social media. And yes, quite often they are just enthusiastic users who think they have become specialists once they have put a lot of hours into social media use and frankly I think there is nothing wrong with that. I think they play an important role in evangelizing the new use of social media although the Value for corporate use is quite often a bit different than they think.
Looking past enthusiasm
If you have a company that has made the first steps in the 'web 2.0 arena' chances are that you became a bit disappointed in the results. Social media isn't a new 'money making miracle' and it also takes time and effort, like any other business, to do it well.
Companies often hire social media consultants / strategists who are enthusiastic social media users. Often they add a lot of 'groups and profiles' on all those social media portals, generating a lot of useless contacts requiring a lot of time to manage but no real ROI. How can you prevent that from happening?
Adopting social media needs to be ROI based and therefor you need to be realistic in your expectations from a good social media strategist. This is more or less what you should expect from a good Social media Expert working full-time at your company:
In the first 2 months, the SMC should assess and thus be able to understand your company, company culture and services as well as your clients in order to lay down the 'Blueprint' for a working social media strategy.
In that Blueprint there should be an overview of your products and services and how to bring these under attention of niche targets amongst your clients. That means that he needs to know how to find these niche clients first and foremost. Just using 'Google' search strings isn't good enough. The SMC should have in-depth knowledge of using AND creating deep-search and clustered search engines.
It also means that the SMC needs to be able to understand what your business and your clients are all about and what means they use online. Your clients behavior has to be measured and deducted towards a niche targeting strategy. In other words, your SMC needs to be knowledgeable about web analytics tools and use in order to interpret client behavior.
Realism in the strength of your corporate brand
Chances are that following your SMC enthusiasm, he will add groups, fan-pages and message-channels on various popular social media networks which will do you more harm than good. Little is known that if your corporate brand isn't very strong or has negative associations like e.g. 'bureaucracy'', recent negative publicity, or 'government control' (examples: IRS, Government Employment Services, Association for mentally Ill, Insurance and Financial institutions, Enron) you will probably end up with a lot of negative discussions around your corporate brand undermining it only further.
He should know and advise that in such cases an active role on social media portals is not wise. Only very limited and safe use of social media use (such as adding videos to an Youtube channel, adding corporate website RSS) can add to the corporate brand. So be realistic in the impact of your corporate brand online first and foremost!
Knowing about link building strategies
The actions of your SMC almost always should target that your corporate brand and services is well visible on page one of the organic Google search results. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) knowledge is a key knowledge area for your SMC and if you also want to target specific websites using banners, SEA as well.
Adding links to not-relevant websites will do wonders to your SEO, but in a negative way..
Behavioral Targeting skills
Behavioral targeting skills will be the single most important knowledge area to look for with your SMC, not only by adopting tools but also as a person understanding the difference between people (clients) and thus the different approaches resulting from web 2.0 interaction strategies.
That is also why on the ON we have made such an effort in creating the ON networking Model. Once you are able to quickly analyze your client and know if the person in question has a 'manager' or a e.g. an 'Artist' communication style, you know what influencing techniques to best apply.
Chances are that your SMC will just start with adding quantities of LinkedIn profiles, groups on Facebook, Twitter channels etc. If you notice that, fire him / her before it is too late. These actions will only result in non-targeted broadcasting (at best) and that has very limited value in social media. Beware of data coming from social media tools, compare them with your web analytics data. Social media 'dashboard' often show very inflated use of the tools involved. A good SMC has to know that and focus on proper web analytics instead.
In the 2 - 6th month your SMC should add the channels using social media networks and a syndication strategy for your content on your home page using RSS feeds, XML-export or widgets. Also he should be able to make a proper social network himself (a Ning social network can be made in about 4hrs) for client services. Bare in mind; all this is only a matter of days work, it shouldn't be the 'bulk' of your SMC daily workload as everything can be syndicated, automated to all channels easily these days.
So what should the SMC be doing instead in these months? The SMC should be focusing on how to bring the online interaction to the real world. That is where you make your money, not in the virtual one! Therefor the SMC should work hard with your marketing & communication departments in order to organize Events which are supported by the Social Media network he has created. His role will be a support role in client interaction, not an initiating one!
The SMC knowledge of online client behavior thus needs to be translated to normal business actions. He needs to train, coach and advise your employees in doing so. Ask your SMC what model he will use in doing so. A model, such as we use on the ON is absolutely necessary for transparency.
In the 6th-12 month your SMC will be able to show the first results of his actions. Don't expect too much yet because as with all business, behavioral client influencing is something that should be measured in years, not months.
You can expect a working content syndication strategy to niche target groups and your web-analytics tools should show some results. How much? That depends of course on the nature of your business. Don't expect web-growths of hundreds of percentages, 20% growth is a major achievement. Knowing that you can calculate if this has enough value for your company. What you cannot measure easily is customer satisfaction. Are your clients happy using new social media to interact with your company? Do they thing that your online efforts add something to your online service experience? Using social media for self-service can be very powerful as well as very cost-reducing for your normal client service center. One great example is the service surrounding the introduction of Windows 7.
Microsoft used 2 social media tools: a forum and a Twitter channel on which the forum discussions were republished. The added visibility on Twitter added to the success of the forum in which users helped themselves, sharing tips and tools about Windows 7:
"Overall we are finding our call center volume is down significantly more than we expected," said Barbara Gordon, vice president of customer support for Microsoft. The drop in calls isn't just due to the fact that Windows 7 appears less problem-plagued than its predecessor, though. In the weeks leading up to and following the operating system's release, Microsoft also added two new ways to get help--through an online forum called Microsoft Answers and via the Microsoft Helps feed on Twitter. "What we have found is we are seeing far more take-up of self-service ... forums and Twitter to get responses," Gordon said in an interview this week. With the Microsoft Answers forums, which launched late last year, users submit questions and experienced community members offer answers that Microsoft workers later validate to make sure they are correct.
1) Beware of enthusiast / social media addicts.
2) Focus on using solid web analytics and client targeting techniques to measure and create business.
3) Expect to make money offline, not online from social media efforts
4) Tip: target cost-reduction of existing ICT infrastructure or client service centers.