We have pages on Facebook to gather fans. Twitter feeds to share content. YouTube channels to post training videos. Pinterest boards for pretty pictures of our products. And if we believe in listening, we’ve built command centers to monitor social conversations.
We have dashboards and spreadsheets to track and count fans, followers, likes, re-tweets and click-throughs. And though it’s not totally reliable, we have sentiment analysis.
Too many brands, however, remain better at using social than at being social. Their objectives are to acquire likes and followers. They push out self-serving content. And when it comes to data they don’t have systems in place to determine what they should do next or to predict future customer behavior.
If a company is willing to make the effort, being social offers a wealth of rewards. Consumers will share their locations. They’ll express interests. They’ll even reveal their purchases. But that information isn’t there simply for the taking. Consumers post all that information for the benefit of their communities, not for brands. If marketers are to leverage social’s potential, they have to re-invent their relationships with prospects and customers by designing experiences that deliver value and earn attention. And then by putting to good use the data they gather.
With that in mind, here are the seven things every company should be doing, or at least planning to do, if they’re to scale their social efforts. I’ve left out the obvious ones such as learning to listen, establishing systems and processes, and training employees. That’s social media 101. Instead I’ve chosen to emphasize the following.
First, change your culture
Social can’t be a medium. It has to be a behavior, a belief and a philosophy. Acknowledge that customers are in control. Being open, accessible and transparent is a start. But a social culture takes more than that. It needs support and participation from senior management and a demonstration of commitment in everything from product development to customer service. FedEx is one company that’s taking this seriously.
Develop a user-based content strategy
Once upon a time we could get away with messages that were all about us, intended only to persuade. Today content has to add real value. Give viewers, readers and listeners a role. Assure your content — be it entertainment or utility – takes into consideration how and when an individual engages. Think of social as an isolated program and you miss opportunities. Use social media as nothing more than distribution channels for your brand stories and you fail.
Start everything with mobile
The future of social is mobile. What’s on everyone’s smart phone? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Path. As a new cashless society emerges, their money will be on their phone soon, too. Users share where they are, what they’re doing, and the things they’re buying via mobile. Start all of your marketing and customer facing programs with the technology that matters most.
Embrace the interest graph
The social graph is great. Facebook and Twitter leveraged the network effect to gather millions of users who connect us to their friends. But there are new platforms emerging — Pinterest and Springpad to name a couple — where users reveal their interests. Be it food, music, tech, travel or fashion, consumers raise their hands and declare, “this is what I am into.” Start now to use and develop corporate-wide ways to tap into the interest graph.
Make real-time one to one marketing your objective
Marketers that figure out personal, one-to-one conversations with individuals and the communities in which they are active will win. But if you’re only posting on Facebook between 9 and 5 when most users don’t show up until after 7 you have a long way to go. You don’t have to DM with your customers one at a time. But you do need apps, technology and services that deliver answers, content and utility relevant to the moment. Hellmann’s cash register receipt is a perfect example.
Consider having an API
You might think that APIs are for startups and social media applications. But APIs can be great for large companies, too. You have reams of useful data and information. It’s possible that by freeing that data you’ll inspire external developers to invent new uses for it and attract new customers. APIs may not be a social medium, but they are a social behavior.
Learn to predict not just to measure
Finally, what do you do with all the interactions you inspire and measure via social media? Marketing is no longer about persuading consumers what to do or buy but rather predicting what they want next. For that you’ll need all of your customer analytics integrated with your social programs. It would be easy if there were an off the shelf program that did exactly what you need. There probably isn’t one. But if you’re spending money on a staff or agency to engage across social platforms maybe you should also invest in the quant geeks who can help make sense of it all.
Have a different idea? Please share. And as always, thanks for reading.
(Shortly after posting this, I came across this piece in Fast Company suggesting there is huge potential in productivity and capital by getting the C-suite on Twitter and other social services. So make Number Eight on the list this: Get your CEO to embrace social. In fact, it’s likely you’ll never really change the culture unless he or she does.)