5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media in Your Business

by Eric Tsai

Last week BusinessWeek published its 100 Best Global Brands 2009 and to no surprise, financial brands were largely untrusted which dragged down all brands across the board with them.

Moving forward, brands are rethinking how they can win back the trust focusing on the psychological aspect of marketing and advertising in an attempt to rebuild its relationship with customers.

You can see from the gradual shift in magazine ads and TV commercials using regular everyday people to lead advertising campaigns instead of celebrities with messages such as the “we’re here for you in this economy” (Hyundai guarantee programs, Subway’s $5 foot long, Gieco’s money saving tips), or the “we stand by our product and services” (GM’s may the best car win, Carl’s Jr.’s value comparison with McDonald’s Big Mac) that centers around authenticity.

Serious Trust Issues

What’s interesting is that with more marketers embracing social media, the actual adoption bottleneck are brands themselves.

I’m not speaking about the Fortune 500s but mainly the small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).

Why is this important?  Because small businesses represent 99% of all employer firms and employ nearly half of all private sector employees, small businesses span all aspects of our economy.

Digital marketing is no longer a fad and has a solid track record of proven success even in this economy but what brands must realize is that building trust takes time and innovation. 

It’s nice to see marketers are quickly to embrace social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, creating their own online community focusing on customer acquisition and retention.

I’m a big believer that social media is in the process of reinventing PR, marketing and advertising by integrating some of these processes into one multi-functional, all encompassing vehicle to engage consumers.

But this is not the answer to earn back the trust, in fact as I’ve mentioned before, these are simply tools and tactics that has evolved due to the shift in consumer behavior and technology innovation.

Companies should re-evaluate their brand strategy to focus on ROI and profits by doing something tangible that align with their core mission while demonstrating ethics and transparency.

Social media is like the hot new gadget that you just bought but haven’t quite figured out what all the buttons can do and the hidden features beneath it.

To some brands, they’re uncomfortable with having conversation with their customers, while others simply refuse to hear the negative comments from the community. 

To marketers, some are starting to figure out how to integrate it with their existing offering, while others are grasping the idea to demonstrate ROI to their clients.

One thing is for certain, social media can help brands in accelerating its reputation (good and bad) and the real question is how to best leverage it to improve an organization as a whole.

Social Media and Business Intelligence

It’s no longer difficult to collection data on customers, data such as conversion rate, click-through rate (CTR) and eyeballs (page views) are nothing new.  The real challenge is to identify useful data to help drive business success.

Analytical data are only as good as developing a strategy and execute against it not to mention taking into account broader factors such as advertising ROI, media weights, distribution, in-store activities, promotions and even closely examining competitors’ brands.

It takes an enormous amount of effort to aggregate meaningful data to build a case for cause and effect correlations between buying and not buying.

Web 2.0 and social media practices is actually a narrow focus in evaluating ROI unless your business operates primarily on the internet.

Social media marketing can certainly build influence and trust, but they should be part of a business intelligence initiative.

Businesses should consider integrating social media tactics with CRM (customer relationship management) tools in a collaborative effort to improve business processes visibility while helping customers in the process of buying.

This kind of business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social ROI, will invite the new generation of social customers (particularly Gen Y, 18-27) into the conversation (that they will own anyway).

Integrating social media into traditional channels of engagement requires risk and change management, but that’s exactly what innovation is all about – taking calculated risks, implement unconventional approach to create a trusted and transparent business environment to drive exceptional customer experience.

The goal is to streamline business processes to give the customer a voice, bounce ideas within the organization, leverage crowdsourcing to cultivate an authentic community.

Done right, this can ease the transition for organizations (new and old) into the growing social media-centric business environment that will continue to test the boundaries of trust.

And trust is what drives pricing power, profit margin and customer retention.

It is what your community thinks and shares with one another. Growing trust will be more important than growing the customer base.

transitioning

5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media

1. Transition into hybrid business model by integrating social media with existing marketing strategy that aligns to business initiatives both online and offline

Drive print/radio/TV traffic to your social network that can spark conversation with your team, or leverage hyperlocal blogs/media for regional advertising/promotional campaign to drive traffic to retail locations.

2. Identify an internal social media administrator candidate to spearhead social media strategy that can examine the processes for failures at the moments of truth

Preferably someone that truly cares about your brand that gives real feedback, not someone from an agency or an consultant that just get paid by the hour to care.

3. Provide analytical capabilities to capture customer insight and purchase processes with CRM tools to enhance visibility into key business processes performance

Cross reference social media statistics/dialogues/behaviors with CRM telesales or retail sales data to find correlation in campaign effectiveness, tie it back to ROI and resource allocation.

4. Leverage crowdsourcing to drive product and service innovation by providing a platform for ongoing engagement, evaluate customer retention

Combine email campaign, direct mail campaign and events to encourage call-to-action feedback with incentives to reward participants, identify the fans and new sources of expertise within the community for word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Pinpoint fact-based data related to more areas of the business decisions and take action to increase the success of change initiatives, create pilot programs, let the customer take control of the purchasing experience

Say one of your product sells really well during a specific time with a specific demographics, figure out why and where it’s coming from; conduct a survey to abstract relevant data on buying pattern and the source of sales reference to improve the purchase experience.

Organizations looking to transition into the social business model will need to think outside the box, get out of the comfort zone and adjust current models to find the right balance of people, process, and technology to fully realize the benefits of this emerging medium.

Are you transitioning your business into social media? 

Are you experiencing success or having issue?

Further Reading



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13 Comments

  1. Stacey Derbinshire   •  

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Lee Traupel   •  

    Great post – couldn’t agree more. One of the challenges for using Social Media for 90% of businesses out there is budgetary; many don’t have personnel or grasp of how to use tools. And, also who/how to hire someone to help them……..

  3. fashion jewelry   •  

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  4. Ted Simon   •  

    Great post, Eric. Enjoy reading your insights and perspective. You consistently hit the nail on the head. Keep up the great work!

  5. Chris Glennon   •  

    Manufacturers should consider aggregating relative social network information about their product and ‘pushing’ it to their distribution points. Having the latest real time social network information at the distribution point engages and increases customer interaction leading to increased sales.

    Chris Glennon
    SmartSymbols Interactive Technologies
    http://www.SmartSymbols.com
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=1988698
    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/smartsymbols

  6. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Stacey,
    Thanks, appreciate it.

    Lee,
    Poorly run companies tend to focus on operations rather than strategic initiatives it’s a fine balance between sustaining and driving a business.

    Ted,
    Thanks for the comment.

    Chris,
    Good point but keep in mind that pushing creates awareness, when someone pushes back you need to be ready for the interaction even if it’s not about your product. Knowledge transfer and availability is key to assist those ready to buy and provide value for those not yet ready but looking for information.

  7. Declan   •  

    Eric,

    Interesting post, the real good stuff here for me starts in the 10th paragraph. Social is a state of mind in my view and principally a desire to contribute your knowledge and experience to the community you want to join or create. The by-product of this interaction is social capital which can be leveraged into brand awareness, positive WOM and eventual brand take up.

    When considering social media, so much time at the outset is focused on calculating social media ROI, finding new sales channels and using an audience to develop products and services and I’m concerned brand owners forget that they have no rights when it comes to engaging with their audience. The audience has the power. If they see that you are being transparent, inclusive and listening they will give you valuable insight into their lives that can fuel NPD and brand development.

    Brand owners should be asking what can we do to enhance the lives of our audience. Anything else the brand gets beyond this is within the gift of the audience.

  8. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Declan,
    Exactly. It all goes back to the issue of trust, the mindset really. It’s the intersection between promises and expectations. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Zygor Guides   •  

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  11. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Thanks for the feedback.

  12. Eric Tsai   •     Author

    Corrinne,
    Just Google it, and you’ll find some good info. Typically you can use free-tools like Hootsuite and Google Analytics to track your social media traffic. Even Facebook has some good tool and ways to track those traffic using Google Analytics.

    If you work for companies willing to pay for them, try Radian 6, Visible Technologies, Techrigy/Alterian, Buzzmetrics, Scout Labs etc. I believe Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce also has the capability to track social media data.

    I suggest you read Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang, his blog has all kinds of great information mainly focused on enterprise-level organizations.

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