Social Media Is All Business Next Year

Social media is taking the gloves off. Or rather businesses are as they have become increasingly more serious about their approach toward social media. Gone is the focus on warm and fuzzy metrics like “followers”. Whether businesses are in social media for brand affinity or sales, the medium as a marketing channel is growing up.

The evolution was inevitable. Businesses simply could not avoid the fact that social networks like Facebook have of a user base of more than 500 million strong. Businesses began to discover that promoting products and services via a 140-character tweet could actually generate interest from prospective customers. Retail businesses saw that toying around with Foursquare and the like could potentially drive consumers right into their stores. Business themselves are becoming socialized.

So it is little wonder that social media has been turning its attention to the needs of businesses, as evidenced by Facebook’s introduction of Deals, which essentially is all about generating revenue for local businesses. Expect to see social media networks continue to target businesses with new products and services in the coming year.

But now that the social media world has become viable for business use, what are businesses going to do about it? It’s clear that social media can’t be viewed in the same light as traditional media. If, for example, a business uses overtly promotional ploys, such as attempting to “buy” Facebook fans, it could easily backfire.

That’s why businesses must exercise keen judgment as they navigate the waters of social media next year… so what are some of the smart moves a business marketer can make?

Drew Neisser, in his excellent commentary for Marketing Daily, offers a “shopping list” of five relevant suggestions, all worthy of note.

Strategy and Control

First, writes Neisser, it’s important to treat social media as a strategic weapon. Neisser says that more than half of large companies are on Facebook and Twitter but “less than 25% claim to have a clearly defined social strategy.” Well duh. A large company has a head of marketing, doesn’t it? So why isn’t that individual defining a social media strategy, and integrating social media into the company’s overall marketing strategy?

Neisser also suggests a company assign “at least one dedicated professional who can champion social strategy internally, while coordinating execution across all the departments it can and should touch.” Right on. Businesses who don’t do this are putting themselves at risk. Can you imagine a corporate advertising program so de-centralized that independent groups within a company are placing their own ads, using their own headlines, graphics, and copy? It would irreparably fragment the company’s brand image and messaging. This same kind of communications disaster could occur if anyone in the company is allowed to tweet or post to Facebook without some kind of corporate filter or guidelines.

Measurement and Consolidation

Neisser recognizes the challenge of metrics when it comes to social media, but he makes the point that new tools that make measuring results easier are on the horizon. The fact is in this economic environment (or any time, really) a company should not be investing in any medium for marketing purposes unless it is, in some way, measuring the results associated with its use. It’s nice to have a lot of Twitter followers and Facebook fans – but you need to know what it means to the bottom line.

Neisser also speaks to the importance of aggregating and archiving content on a company’s website. Without this consolidation of material from social media efforts, a company is losing the value of the information and hampering organic search results as well.

Enlightenment

Neisser’s final suggestion is for businesses to become “enlightened” about social media by making all of its employees aware of its potential to impact the business in a positive way. He writes, “Social isn’t just something [employees’] kids do but rather a way that leads will be generated, sales captured, customers serviced, advocates nurtured and new products developed…” Granted, a company does have to be somewhat careful when it empowers employees to participate in its social media programs, but if it can be a champion of “social business enlightenment,” it will be better off in the long run.

So as next year unfolds, think about really getting down to business when it comes to social media. Chances are if you make some of the above smart moves, you’ll be making far better use of social media than your competitors.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

4 Responses to Social Media Is All Business Next Year

  1. @DrewNeisser says:

    Barry–I'm flattered you called out my MediaPost article. Thanks. Just in case your readers want to go deeper with social media strategy, here's the link to the Social Media Strategy (Process & Template) http://slidesha.re/icNAub I referenced in my article. Cheers, Drew

  2. @DrewNeisser says:

    Barry–I'm flattered you called out my MediaPost article. Thanks. Just in case your readers want to go deeper with social media strategy, here's the link to the Social Media Strategy (Process & Template) http://slidesha.re/icNAub I referenced in my article. Cheers, Drew

  3. Zach Cole says:

    I think we are already seeing the variety of ways businesses can leverage social media for marketing purposes. The thing with social and new media is that it's always changing and evolving. Sure, we can predict trends for 2011, but by the time May rolls around, we'll likely have a whole new set of trends to study. Very interesting piece! I think the best practice for businesses who are serious about social media is to hire people to monitor these trends and help the brands become early adopters.

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