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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.

The more sophisticated commitment to social media, where you have committed to it as a way of serving customers, of exuding your brand essence, or by creating a lifestyle theme that is about your customer’s challenges in daily life rather than your brand are the bigger ideas but are all still complicated to create and uncertain to measure.  Marketers mostly do not know what they get from social media so they treat it as a side project.  That has to change fast.

“Fast” is the operative word. Know that social media will change constantly. Over 500 million are now on Facebook, 200 million are on Twitter and last year, there were nearly 400 million checkins on Foursquare, including one from outer space!  When you consider the rise of shopping apps and the ability to make payments via the same smart phone, you get the picture of accelerated change.  Facebook now has likes rather than fans, social commerce is starting to emerge, yet for some reason, click rates on Facebook are declining. Life is accelerating, marketing touchpoints are rapidly emerging.  Things are going even faster than a New York minute; it’s a Facebook minute or something like that.

In this environment, a social media strategy is essential but there are no templates for this yet; or should I say, everyone has their own template.

Teaching “Social Media for Brand Managers” to MBA students at NYU, I recently reviewed the various social media strategy approaches.  Permit me to share some of the principles I gave the students for constructing a strategy

1.       Start with the brand strategy. Social media strategy serves the larger brand purpose. Who are you trying to be relevant to and in what context?  How do they participate in social media?  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 the future, say three years from now?  Will mobile be more important than it is today and what will mobile life look like? What other beliefs about the future do you have that will affect your strategy?  For example, if you believe we are headed towards increased privacy and opt-in, it affects the importance 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?  What are you trying to achieve?  Is the focus on customer service, promotions, co-creation?

4.       What does success look like?  You must translate this into a measurement strategy.  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?  Leverage gaming aspects to enhance people’s willing to share.

6.       Provide an organizational recommendation that will support this commitment to social media.  What is the governance?  Who is responsible to curating this social media presence?  If you do not create immersive environments like Dell and Gatorade did, the importance of this commitment will not really transform the organization and 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.  Ultimately, are you trying to build your Facebook following as the center of gravity or are you using that to create a database of consumers that download your apps as well?  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).

Time to get serious about social media.  If you don’t commit now, you may never catch up.

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3 Responses to “Social media as a strategy rather than a side project”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by joel rubinson, MediaCom Planning. MediaCom Planning said: Social media as a strategy rather than a side project | Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research – […]

  2. Nice Post Joel, it makes a lot of sense. Two other things that we have noticed doing social strategy research:

    1. Facebook works best when you use it as a way of letting your advocates know what is new and interesting – giving them more to advocate about. Think about the role the Google chap’s page has played in Egypt as a hub for what is new in the movement.

    2. Social strategy really should not just be an out crop from brand strategy but from business strategy. The benefits people advocate for online (apple – easy, Microsoft – Social) start with strategic business investment and hiring decisions vs just brand strategy choices).

    I hope you are well



  3. Spot on Joel. I could not agree more. We recently did some work on the influence of social media on travel consumption and planning. Despite its significant influence on travel related behavior, social media is not yet incorporated, in a systematic and meaningful way, in the travel industry’s marketing mix. Destination Tourist Authorities for instance have been very slow to embrace social media’s huge potential. One would assume that in an experiential product category such as travel, the potential of social media would have been leveraged to the hilt! Sadly, it is not.