Social Media and what it CAN/CAN'T do for your Business

by Jonathan Marshall

Today, everyone seems to be talking about Social Media, and companies are rushing “to do” social media, much like a child in Toys R Us when they see a shiny, new toy on the shelves. Businesses are trying to figure out how to leverage it for marketing, increased and more personal customer interaction, and PR. They’re hopping on the Twitter wagon, making Facebook fan pages, uploading videos/pics to Youtube and Flickr, and building social communities in hopes of joining the Web 2.0 conversation. Jason Burby from ClickZ thoroughly explains social media advantages/disadvantages in the post below.

A few succeed, but depending on industry, many pour a lot of resources into these efforts and don’t have much success. The biggest concern is they haven’t defined what success might look like for themselves or their customers and potential prospects. This is where the problem starts. Defining specific site goals is important when initiating an on-site behavior measurement plan (Web analytics). Companies that don’t have documented and thorough site goals really struggle when it comes to prioritizing initiatives and measuring their site’s success. These shared site goals are critical to understanding your site performance’s and impact.

The same holds true when you initiate specific goals in order to understand the impact of social media on your business. You must define what success means to you, because it will be different for everyone.

Consider how you can leverage social media’s enormous reach for your business, but make sure that you understand that you can’t control social media. This is where most drop the ball if they hadn’t already with setting up specific social media goals. You can’t force your goals on people talking about your company, products, and services. When defining your goals, consider what success also means to those interacting on the Web with your brand, whether it’s on your site or not. Like I said before, success will be different for everyone, and after you understand what it may mean for your target, you could end up changing your definition of success, maybe a few times.

When it comes to defining goals and identifying ways to leverage social media, you must understand the difference between social media that you own, and social media that you don’t own. You own the social media that you promote on your site, your Facebook fan page, your Twitter account, and similar communities you or your business may use. You don’t own what other people are saying on their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, reviews on other sites, and blogs. Premiere San Diego Advertising Agencies actively use all of these social tools.

Too often, companies are only focused on understanding how people interact with the social media initiatives controlled by the company. The conversations I hear are always about how many followers/fans a Twitter account/Facebook fan page has. And while it is important to understand the reach of those owned initiatives, the power is really in the chatter. The conversations that go on between your customers, including information and opinions about your company, products, and services online. That is what is important- analyzing how you are perceived by others, and then making changes or increasing efforts accordingly.

The secret for companies is defining ways in which to harness that positive power of comments while finding the negative comments and addressing them so that they don’t spin out of control and continue to have a negative impact on your business (short term and long term).

According to Jason Burby, a well-known example of this is the buzz that went on a few years ago on the Dell laptop batteries overheating and exploding. There was a tremendous amount of talk about it online before Dell acknowledged and addressed it. It ended up becoming a huge issue leading to recalls and the like.

If Dell had been listening across the Web at that point, it may have been able to identify the issue earlier and get ahead of the problem, working with manufacturing and recalling batteries earlier. It would’ve been seen as getting ahead of the problem rather than getting nailed for ignoring it.

Dell and others have learned from mistakes like this, but many companies still aren’t proactive in listening to what their clients are saying on the Web. To shift corporate thinking in this area, put a strategic plan in place to address these types of things.

How do you define success around social media? What is your strategy to leverage the positive mentions and address the negative (or potentially negative) mentions?

Once you have that in place, you can look at the different tools and listening platforms available to understand what’s happening outside initiatives you control. Make sure you look not just at quantity of mentions but also at quality measurements. Sentiment definition is a great way to help focus on quantity versus quality. Define your goals around these areas and plan your strategy based on that.