Marketers STILL Hesitant About Social Media: Getting Over It

business struggles to take on social media

Business struggles to fully embrace social media

So, a recent report from Forrester Research highlighted by Mashable suggests only 49 percent of marketers have fully integrated social media into their brand-building strategy.  The reports finds that marketers are overwhelmingly aware that social media is important with 92 percent agreeing it has fundamentally changed how consumers engage with brands.  But, the story states, social media activities remain in a silo apart from the rest of marketing plans.

It is more important than ever before for marketers at all levels – from SMBs to enterprises – to engage in social media and measure a return.  What return you want to measure depends on your goal: is it as simple as to grow followers or as complex as to impact brand perception in a certain way?  Or, is it something else.

To start, it’s important to assign a manager of social media – part of the holdback with many companies is a clear understanding of who’s in charge of social media activities.  Typically, this should be within the function of public relations – your PR manager; your PR agency; etc.  If you use a PR agency, it’s important that your social media activities come direct from the company, not your agency – IMO ;-)  In other words, your PR agency should provide guidance and recommendations but, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc. should originate from the actual company.  If you are having your PR agency actually engage in posts, etc., it is a best-practice that full disclosure is clear.  You don’t want to give the impression that Tweets, posts, etc. are from you and then have followers find out later that it was from a third party. Ghost tweeting  – or anything similar in any other social media network – can be viewed as unethical.  I know social media requires time that some executives claim they can’t make.  The reality is that claiming time is not available is no longer a valid answer.  Social media is too important to not make the time.  Hence, one should ensure someone is assigned to manage it – and actually do the posting.  At the very least, if you ghost Tweet, you should get approval beforehand of the content from the person it will be attributed to.

Many companies are now hiring social media managers and this is certainly fine.  But, it is important that this person has a PR background since the function of social media is in actuality relations with the public.  A savvy PR person will help ensure PR etiquette and PR objectives are in line.  Social media requires establishing a symbiotic relationship and PR is the best role that seeks this – far more than marcom, sales, c-level executives, etc.

Once the role of social media management has been assigned to a person or team, a strategy can then be made.  Start with a list of ideal social media networks to engage in – not all of them are a fit every time.  Then, clearly define the goal for each one and if the goal of one network impacts the goal of another.  Another factor to consider is how much integration one wants between social media networks.  For example, should you integrate Foursquare or Yelp with Twitter – as a brand, do you want your check-ins to the grocery store to be Tweeted?  Sounds silly but there are many integration questions such as this one to consider.  This is also why it’s important that social media policies and guidelines be established across an organization.

Once this is figured out, you’ll want to determine the branding you want within each social media network – the layout and messaging within each.  Consistency between all of them is often the best choice but, this is not necessarily a hard rule.  Finally, you’ll want to figure out how active you want to be with each network – do they all require the same level of activity or some more than others?  Think back to your main goals for each network to help you determine an activity level.

Don’t forget to continually evaluate your results and to modify things as needed.  Sometimes, you’ll want to change the look and feel of your presence just for the sake of change.  Then again, you may not want to.  This is a key point – social media strategies can require change very often; certainly far more than any other marketing function.  Be prepared to shift as needed.  But, more than anything just get in on it.