By Matthew Klein

March 9th, 2016

It wasn’t too long ago that you could split businesses into two camps—there were those that had a strategy for social media, and those that were on social just to be there. Just having a plan for distributing content gave you an edge on the competition. A few years later, the table stakes have been raised. Treating social as a “dumb pipe” for your content won’t get you far at all. You now need a sophisticated strategic approach to social if it’s going to be a competitive advantage for your company. Here are seven ways you might be hindering the impact of your social media efforts.

#1 – You’re not leveraging social insights across business functions

Even brands that are great at some aspects of marketing on social media—creating content, engaging with fans—can struggle with taking advantage of the opportunities social offers to gain insights that help their business.

Social is such a rich source of potential insights. It’s personal—customers include significant amounts of information about themselves in their profiles; it’s informal—meaning their behaviour, the things that they say and do, are unfiltered, and more likely to be honest; and it’s hugely popular, with billions of users spending hours and hours producing data that can yield insights, if you know how to find them.

Here’s a very partial list of ways that social data can be a source of value across your company.

  • Product—social helps you understand what customers want when you’re developing products, and it allows you to gather useful feedback about the products you release.
  • Customer experience—likewise, social media can be a source of data on how customers experience your brand and your competitors. With the right monitoring, you’ll get a clearer picture of what people like and dislike about interacting with your company.
  • Branding—social data can help you better understand your customers. It allows you to get a more detailed picture of what they’ll respond to, allowing you to create more effective brand messages and campaigns.

#2 – Content and campaigns aren’t coordinated between social and other channels

Social media campaigns can’t exist separate from the rest of your company. Social content and campaigns should complement everything that’s happening on other marketing channels, and vice versa.  

A high-budget TV campaign to drive traffic to stores can feature a hashtag that has bonus content behind it. Or a campaign that “lives” primarily on social could incorporate content from a video ad to support it. The important thing is that they’re working in concert to drive the maximum value. To do that, the planning and creative process for social can’t be totally separated from those of the rest of the marketing department.

And in terms of paid campaigns, social and other media buying should not be walled off. More value comes from evaluating costs and returns from all potential ad channels at once, rather than having paid social media stay within a social department, where it can sometimes be an afterthought.

#3 – You haven’t developed social as a CRM and CS channel

Publishing content and engaging with customers are, and should be, a core activity for most brands on social media. But for many, engagement is mostly a matter of trying to reply to as many people as possible.

A social media marketing strategy that maximizes value recognizes the impact that social can have on customer relationships. It can drive loyalty, and increase the share of wallet for a brand, if done right. Great customer service on social media is a powerful tool here. Solid customer service on social media can increase customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat purchase: It’s estimated that KLM’s social customer service agents generate over $25 million in annual revenue for the company. For many brands, however, social customer service remains separated from the rest of a support department.

It’s not just customer service though—social can be used to build stronger customer relationships through any type of interaction. With accurate customer data, you have the opportunity to create stronger customer experiences and interactions that will drive loyalty and repeat purchases.  

#4 – Social goals aren’t clearly tied to overall business objectives

Many social media teams have trouble getting resources allocated to them, and buy-in from top management (getting internal resources placed fourth in a TrustRadius survey of the top challenges for social marketers). This often happens because people don’t see how social fits into the business—it looks like something that’s taking resources away from core functions.

That’s not how it should be—strong social marketing will complement the work being done by other functions and have a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Drawing a clear line between company goals and those of your social media strategy make it much easier to understand, track, and increase the value of social marketing efforts.

If a company objective is to grow market share in a particular region, your social strategy could aim to drive growth in brand awareness and sales specifically in that area, for example. By broadening the context of social, it becomes a more embedded, essential part of an organization.

#5 – You’re using the wrong metrics

The principle is similar when it comes to metrics. Most social media channels have built-in metrics. These are useful as a quick way to gauge what’s happening on one particular network. But a social media strategy that drives measureable value needs to go beyond standard-issue measurements.

The metrics you track should let you and your team understand, ideally at a glance, how much progress you’re making towards your marketing goals. That may mean consolidating different types of measurements across different networks to create more focused, useful metrics. Getting metrics right is also the foundation for accurate social ROI tracking.

If you’re aiming to drive increased customer satisfaction on a company-wide level, for example, that could translate to focusing on providing excellent social customer service to customers. Here, social media metrics like comments are only so helpful. The proportion of comments and messages replied to, response time and social sentiment would give more insight into whether you’re reaching your objectives.

#6 – You’re only paying attention to your own social channels

Managing branded social channels can be several full-time jobs. But they’re not the only thing on social that you have to pay attention to. Casual mentions of your brand on social, ones that are not on your own branded channels, can be a major source of actionable insights for your brand.

As we mentioned, what people say on social can be used to improve your product offering, strengthen your messaging, and much more. It’s important that you be able to pick up on those conversations even when they occur off your own channels, often without tagging you.

The right listening tools can help you cast a much, much wider net in terms of potential sources of information. To maximize their strategic value, you also need to set up procedures for jumping into discussions off your own channels when appropriate. And create processes for analyzing the data you pull from listening so it can be used intelligently.

#7 – The rest of your organization isn’t involved with social

The odds of successful social marketing go up when not only top management, but the entire organization, understands and values what social media employees do. It helps if they participate too.

If the average employee has no idea what your social media presence looks like, despite spending over an hour a day on Facebook, there’s an issue. Increasing social buy-in doesn’t need to be complicated—it can start with sharing what you’re doing on social (and its impact) internally. Social content can feature employees, either as experts, or just as friendly faces of your company (or both). Employee advocacy programs can help increase the reach and effectiveness of your social content.

The common denominator

If there’s one thing that all of these missteps have in common, it’s that they stem from treating social media as an isolated function within an organization. Experts at Forrester and elsewhere have pointed out that social is much less useful, much less able to drive value for an organization when it is cut off from other functions. Making social a part of business across departments and focusing on social activities that advance the strategic aims of the whole company is the way forward. And companies that do the inverse, by keeping social stuck in a corner, will be left behind.

Header image credit: Alan O’Rourke of Audience Stack, via Flickr

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