Many companies at this point realize they ought to participate in social media, but are stuck at the mechanics of it. It’s understandable because the same way of doing business, listening to customers and managing business has stayed relatively the same for many years — and only now — they must ‘get into’ social media. I want to be realistic for a moment and not chant and cheer the benefits of social media for companies; rather point out the outcomes of being engaged with Social Media.
Unlike traditional business processes, social media is not a product. it’s a service. The quality of social media engagement relies on the ability for the company to modify their business model to incorporate customer feedback. In the past, companies never had the ability to listen to their customers without digging deep in their pockets to fund focus groups, hire market research firms, consult with industry analysts. Those were the days of spin-the-bottle marketing toward consumers. Once a ROI model was discovered, executives could just pour thousands to make millions, millions to make billions and so on.
Old marketing is linear. It was controlled, managed, expected, scientific, pragmatic. Much like the old model of broadcasting news — radio, television, newspapers — the editorial quality is valuable but the medium isn’t. If you expected to double your reach, you doubled your ad spend.
Social media, branding and newer forms of marketing are consumer-focused. That is, the success of a brand is contingent on the success of their consumers. This is the age of where people are people and do criticize on the Web. It’s not all that bad to see a critique occasionally, it means people care. People care about the quality of service that is delivered. And they’re going to share their opinions whether you like it or not.
Unfortunately, not many companies are not willing to budge their old means in light of current times. They continue their same mistake of simply opening a headcount of a “community manager” because it’s the only hot position that investors are green-lighting to the board. They expect with a community manager, surely they will fix their social media inferiors. We’re again back to the linear approach to plugging a leak with a piece of gum instead of replacing the pipe.
I want to share a kind warning or notice to companies who wish to hire a community manager or a social media evangelist:
The market doesn’t tolerate BS. Be prepared to support your community manager with inclusion, voice and input to strategic decisions. It’s the least that investors, consumers and employees expect, is a company that is in-tune with the needs of their users, prospects and industry practices. I see many companies make the same mistakes they’ve been making and it hurts.
Selecting an excellent community manager is an unnerving process for most companies. A good community manager is one who listens to customers no matter the hour in the day or night, is one who probably Tweets or blogs internal discussions, is present during discussions about customers, is one who advocates the needs of users with the utmost of passion and fight as if the customer was right there. On the other hand, a good community manager embraces the needs of their audience, whether those are colleagues, superiors, executives, legal and PR — and crafts strategic, clear and to-the-point campaigns.
A suggested question is to pose during the interview for a great community manager is, “What would they do when they receive resistance, or outright shutdown by their boss regarding a social media related matter.” You’d be surprised by the response, many are lucky enough to have a community manager who is a revolutionary in their arsenal. Great community managers advocate for customers, the right thing, the best balance in function and form — and don’t back down.
As companies head down the yellow brick road of social media, be sure that you’re willing to change your business (even just a little bit) for the longevity, agility and goodwill of the company. Otherwise, you might as well join the print industry. 😉
I write this with gratitude for all the folks who have inspired, motivated and challenged me along the way to get where I am. Social Media is no different than television, radio, print – it evolves and all we need to do is evolve our understanding and application of the media within it. In order for company brands to be successful, we must change our perspective, thus, a culture shift is due.
[Image credit: noloran on Flickr]