I’ve introduced social media to a lot of people over the past few years and one thing has struck me time and time again; the number of organisations that approach it as a marketing channel only. They are used to dealing with other types of communication channels such as print advertising, posters, radio, TV, newsletters and the like – all of which are purely marketing channels. They are principally one-way communications and they usually fit neatly within the remit of the marketing department.
But social media is radically different – not just different – but RADICALLY different. It isn’t just a marketing tool and you cannot restrict it to just a marketing tool. Trying to treat it as such and ignoring the other aspects WILL actually harm your marketing efforts.
Likewise – some organisations approach social media from the point of view of customer service – but again, it’s not just a customer service channel.
This multi-faceted nature creates a number of problems for an organisation and its social media management.
Firstly, where do you control it from? Marketing? IT? Customer Service?
Secondly, how do you manage the information flow – if you operate in social media you will need to feedback to marketing, product/service development, sales, customer service etc.
For an organisation to get the best out of social media and stay in the game, they have to understand the multi-disciplined nature of social media, its uses for an organisation and the challenges of managing it.
Take Twitter, for example – when someone posts about your organisation, product or service you have to decide whether it’s a customer service tweet, a tweet you can retweet for marketing purposes, a potential suggestion for a product or service improvement, a negative tweet from a troll (that needs no response) a blogger or journalist requesting information, or any one of a number of other types of tweet – all of which need dealing with in a different way and may require co-ordinated action from different departments.
Speed of response is a big factor; so creating and maintaining rapid and effective channels of internal communication is essential to getting the most out of social media.
Logistics and follow through are also crucial – if you say you are going to do something – something that might involve different parts of the organisation – then you have to deliver on that or face the consequences.
Social media is also a great business intelligence tool – you can gain insights into prospects, customers, competitors, products/services and markets. If you monitor social media, you may well find out information that might impact on strategy, product development, marketing strategy, product placement, usability, pricing etc. You might discover market intelligence suggesting new markets, new products or new services.
So, if you are considering using social media as part of your marketing mix – great – but remember that you need to deal with all the other issues as well. You will need to get board level involvement – both so they understand the business implications of social media, but also so they facilitate the setting up of communication lines and responsibilities.
To really maximise the benefit of social media to an organisation you need to implement the following:
1. Get the board to recognise its importance and it's multi-dimensional impact on business
2. Employ a multi-discipline Social Media Manager or Community Manager who understands the organisation’s business and how it makes its money
3. They can be based in any department as long as they have the authority to make cross-functional decisions, the wisdom to decide on the right course of action and access to senior decision makers in all departments
4. Set up monitoring tools to cover all aspects of social intelligence – marketing, customer service, business and market intelligence and product feedback
5. Respond in the fastest timescale you can manage – but constantly work on shortening that timescale
Social media can be a powerful marketing tool, but in the right hands, with the right approach, it can transform your entire business.