Three million happy customers telling the world about your brand can you think of a better scenario? P&G, Walmart, The Coca-Cola Company and even the tasty chocolate and hazelnut spread Nutella have all cracked the code. Coke and Nutella have attracted over 3million fans to their Facebook pages alone.
Several of these companies had the time and resources to test out social media early. They funded big programs just to see what would happen. Each made mistakes along the way (good thing since the rest of us got to learn from them), and they used their learning to build better programs, and to institutionalize the optimal techniques and approaches to social media.
Although I kicked off this post naming big brands such as Coke, social media isn’t just for consumer companies. With the right strategies and tactics deployed, social media can be used to change any company’s competitive landscape. But that only happens when a company understands that social media is more than a set of tools and tactics. It is a set of behaviors and approaches to communicating, interacting and engaging your customers.
The opportunities to leverage social media are wide-ranging. It can be used to attract new customers (generate leads), increase brand affinity, increase brand evangelism, manage brand reputation online and learn exactly what your customers are thinking at any point in time.
For many companies, social media is still relatively new terrain. In fact, most companies today are in one of four stages in their social media development and deployment.
1) Listening and Learning
Most companies in this phase are reading about social media and developing an understanding of how it fits in their company with their target audience. They are using free tools to monitor what’s being said about their company and brands online. Management may not be on board yet.
These companies are encouraging internal champions to start a project, and test the waters. Social media work is on top of the champion’s full-time job. Management is tentative about social media but feels compelled to get started.
At many companies, management has made a commitment to social media and they have tasked specific people with social media responsibility. They have overhauled their website, implemented blogs, and are monitoring the Webosphere to understand sentiment and respond to complaints.
These companies have implemented social media and they are using their experiences to learn and drive better more strategic projects going forward.
At each of these stages there is more to be learned and mastered. Marketers need best practices for blogs, wikis, podcasts, viral campaigns and more. They need to employ the tools and planning to accurately measure programs. And they need to determine a clear strategy that social media programs are designed to support in order to ensure success.
It can takes months or longer of reading blogs and attending conferences to learn what you need to know to implement social media well. I attempted to encapsulate all of the items marketing needs to plan for in the post, 19-Point Checklist of Social Media . Even with this list, each company is unique and programs need to be designed as a good fit.
Kevin pointed out the power of knowledge in his Techrigy post, Knowledge, Power & Social Media . As strategists, we??re still spending a significant amount of each day continuing to learn about what works and what doesn??t in social media. As most companies have discovered, the learning can take as much time as implementing.
So I find ways to make the learning easier. I transfer knowledge to companies in a variety of ways including my book “The Age of Engage”, gage Daily blog, strategic consulting and through training. Yet, to make learning faster and more effective, I??ve developed a social media training program called Remarkable Marketing. And I’e partnered with Kevin to add his expertise to the program.
These training workshops are customized for each company and delivered onsite. For social media, one size doesn’ fit all. Customization is critical. Each training session begins with an overview and a company needs assessment. Then the program takes folks through fundamentals, best practices, ideation sessions and more to ensure they are ready to get started on successful social media projects the next day.
Training is a particularly cost-effective way to get your company started with social media and new marketing. Well implemented social media programs may be one of the best opportunities to help your company outperform your competitors in this difficult economy and prepare your company to see significant returns when the economy comes roaring back.
No matter what stage your company is in, one of your goals should be to give your teams the tools and knowledge they need to ensure the best possible outcomes. What else will ensure their success with social media?