BrainTrust Query: Social Media as a Strategy Rather Than a Side Project

Discussion
Feb 24, 2011
Joel Rubinson

Through a special arrangement, presented here
for discussion is an excerpt from a current article from the Joel Rubinson
on Marketing Research Consulting
blog.

When we study the top social media
success stories, we still tend to focus on the splashy campaigns that went
viral (e.g. Blendtec, Water Babies, Old Spice). That’s still TV thinking,
but where you do not have to pay for the impressions. There is more to social
media than that.

Over 500 million are now on Facebook, 200 million are on Twitter
and last year, there were nearly 400 million check-ins on Foursquare, including
one from outer space! When you consider the rise of shopping apps and the ability
to make payments via the same smartphone, you get the picture of accelerated
change in the way we must market our products.

In this environment, a social
media strategy is essential but there are no commonly agreed-to templates for
this yet.

Teaching "Social Media for Brand Managers" to MBA students
at NYU, I recently reviewed the various social media strategy approaches to
construct the following recommendations:


  1. Start with the brand strategy. A brand must decide who it is trying to be relevant to and in what context? Consumers might be Facebook-centered for some things,
    blog-centered for others (e.g. mommy bloggers), and community-centered
    for yet other parts of their lives. You need to listen to know where the
    conversations are occurring.
  2. What are your beliefs about what mobile life will look like in the
    future, say three years from now? Do you believe we are headed towards increased
    privacy? If so, it elevates the priority of building an opt-in database of
    consumers who have granted permission.
  3. How do you feel that social media can advance brand-consumer relationship
    goals? Is the focus on customer service, promotions, co-creation?
  4. What does success look like? Marketers started getting their feet wet with
    social media using a "ready, fire, aim" approach but we need
    to start doing better than that.
  5. Build sharing into everything you do. Why shouldn’t you make promotions,
    advertorial content, offers, etc. completely sharable?
  6. Provide an organizational recommendation that will support this commitment
    to social media. It’s hard to imagine transforming customer relationships
    without transforming employees and business partners.
  7. Corollary to the organizational recommendation is that social media is
    NOT free. The costs just show up in different places so this is a real commitment
    not some side project.
  8. Create a strategy that has multiple aspects but one focal point. You have
    to decide if your Facebook page will be your micro-site or if it is a feeder
    into a micro-site you create where you have more control (oops, I think I
    showed my bias there).

Discussion Questions: How should marketing around social media differ from traditional media approaches? What would you add to the tips for social media strategy approaches offered in the article?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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14 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Social Media as a Strategy Rather Than a Side Project"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Success begins with the realization that you must be willing to cede control of the process to the network which includes loyal customers, customers you’ve lost, customers you’ve never had to lose and “flamers” who are little more than digital critics whose greatest joy is to attack for the sake of attacking.

Clearly it’s too early in the game to pontificate about “best practice models” or “Ten Steps to Social Networking Success” and I suspect social networking strategy may, to some degree, always center on the ability to stay on top of rapidly moving organic evolution. Put another way social networks are constantly moving targets.

Will most manufacturers and retailers be able to flourish in this new era? I find it unlikely. It’s a full-time job that requires a unique skill set anchored by flexibility, creativity, rapid response and the ability to clearly hear, and openly respond to, your customers. Not classic “big brand” skills.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Using social media must start with the consumers. Who are they? Do they use social media? If so, which media? For what purpose? How often? What is important in their life? THEN go to the brand strategy–What is the perception of the brand by these consumers? How does the brand fit their life? THEN you can plan the strategy. THEN remember that the consumers own the process, control the process, and will use it as they see fit. Since the number, type, and users of social media are constantly changing there is no set of guidelines that works yet.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
10 years 2 months ago
Joel, I think some of your recommendations strike at the heart–connect it to brand strategy and make sure you know what you want to get at it–social is not separate from the brand, it is an outcome of every positive or negative interaction your brand drives in every channel. Social can raise the profile of your brand (e.g. drive awareness) it can encourage consideration and trial and it can drive purchase but it cannot be pushed on people because it is so largely permission based. Even within social there are different gradations–I like to think of it in concentric circles and the closer you get to someone’s private life and personal information the more accurate you had better be in how, when, and where you connect. I’m not sure social is “media’ at all in the classic sense. it’s content and connection–turning it into media is often fraught with challenges. Campaigns like Old Spice show people still like to be entertained and you can use social channels to engage them in the brand in a… Read more »
Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
10 years 2 months ago

Social media ideally should be a cohesive part of a holistic cross-channel strategy. A customer’s experience on a social media page should be seamless with their experience in-store, on a PC or on a mobile device. Obviously the industry has a way to go to make this goal a reality, but the slowly growing number of retailers offering full e-commerce capabilities on Facebook shows an awareness that social media is a legitimate full-fledged customer channel and not a novelty.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Companies and brands that treat social media as a side project will get very little benefit because the competition for attention in the social media is far too great. Social media is extremely powerful and should be put into the hands of the right experts. This is not a job for an intern or summer intern.

Larry Negrich
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

With a recent Gartner report on mobile devices stating that 1.6 billion mobile devices were sold to end users in 2010, the tip I would add is: retail marketers should fully leverage the social media/mobile device relationship.

The report is available on Gartner’s website.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Social Media always starts as a branding experiment. As such, retailers and others hire interns to track responses to social media outreach. This is not so much a strategy as it is a survival tactic.

The questions really are, “What can social media do for my brand?” “Do we believe we can monetize it, or is it just a cost center?” “Are there ways we can use sentiment analysis to make real and important changes to our business?”

I can appreciate why this kind of thought didn’t go into the start of social media campaigns–it wasn’t clear if this had an actual life or if it was a fad. Now that the answer is known, it’s time to take a careful look at social media strategies.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
10 years 2 months ago

Offers and just-in-time product information. That’s the content that brand managers should deliver in social media and mobile apps.

Once the community begins to form, it’s all about responsiveness to issues that are raised.

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
10 years 2 months ago
Smart marketers have known this all along: all marketing is social marketing. Consumers have lives outside of consuming. They use your products with friends, family, and coworkers. They talk about their experiences in your stores. Even the act of shopping itself can be social. (I have a coworker who admits to having gone out of his way to patronize a “Singles Safeway” in Washington, DC.) The prevalence of online, electronic social media, however, has introduced two major changes: 1) The ease and speed of communicating with (or, at least, talking at) huge numbers of people. This is obviously both an opportunity and a risk (just ask Kenneth Cole). 2) The ability to actually measure the real effectiveness of each social interaction, by loyalty, spend, share of wallet, or any number of other real-world, bottom-line metrics. Can you tie communications to actual shoppers? If you can keep in mind Ryan’s counsel to willingly cede control and Camille’s reminder that the customers are in charge, if you can take advantage of social media’s speed, reach and cost… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

It goes against many corporate cultures to relinquish control of conversations through social media. Once a company determines how to balance organized, pre-scheduled topic contributions with ad hoc posts, a loyal following will result. Additionally, it is true that the outcome of any effort here is a direct result of how much effort goes in. Not all companies devote full-time commitments, and that shows in their social impact.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
10 years 2 months ago

I am in agreement with the author’s points. In fact, a sound media approach regardless of whether it is social media or “traditional media” should (1) start with a strategy, not a tactic (2) always respect the consumer and (3) measure a media campaign on predetermined metrics of success.

What I find conspicuously missing from the social media genre are the elements of behavioral targeting and tailoring relevant content for the consumer. It is surprising that those elements are not part of the definition and fabric of social media the way ‘sharing’, ‘two-way dialogue’ and ‘community’ are.

Dave Wendland
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

Definitely not a “side project.” The operative word is SOCIAL rather than MEDIA. Rapidly evolving media applications are tactics that should definitely align with other tactics and become part of an overall branding (and corporate) strategy.

But social media, unlike more traditional media, is not something you do once and wait to see results. As previously cited, it’s about responsiveness, relevance, and relationships. The new media enables us to create and foster a true sense of community and belonging.

Social Media is not a one-trick pony. New applications are being introduced daily and the rate of participation among consumers is accelerating at hyper speed.

My advice? Get on board. Hold on tight. And ENGAGE with your customers before it is too late. Make it an essential part of your corporate strategy.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
10 years 2 months ago

At this point I am not sure anyone really has a clue about linking product marketing and social media. What some call great success has yet to prove any product sales. What I see is temporary awareness that is at a level below most television commercials.

Just like the differences between a supplier and retailer, I see differences between supplier and social media user. Social media continues the fragmentation of consumers from mass with 3 channels, to segments with 300 channels to thousands with the social media. How do you become someone’s friend when you are trying to sell them something?

I agree our old way of looking is limiting our perspective and effectiveness, but just like data mining, I think we are years away from really using it.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 2 months ago
Great discussion Joel and we are definitely at the point where being active in social marketing is no longer, in and of itself, a differentiator. We’ve turned the corner toward a more disciplined approach to social that requires goal setting, strategy development, solid execution and measurement. On the issue of measurement, I would only add to the list that marketers need to resist the temptation to look at ROI on their program in terms of soft metrics such as fans, followers, views, likes, etc. Yes, these are often the things we read about when certain pieces of social media go viral but ultimately businesses don’t pay salaries with YouTube views or Facebook likes. They are important metrics to keep track of but what marketers need to look for is the correlation between activity, response and financial return. The return may be in the form of reduced costs, enhanced profit or improved sales but you have to identify it. It’s not that every project needs to necessarily have a positive return–experimentation is important too–but it is… Read more »
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