What does Social Media really mean?

It’s official – companies are viewing social media as integral to not only marketing, but business strategy. We’ve always stressed that while social media efforts often begin at the marketing level, it has a massive knock on effect to other parts of the business, which means that businesses need to understand and embrace the implications of social media beyond ‘sales’ or ‘marketing’..

 

So what is social media?

It’s not Facebook, not Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn – these are just the tools. The tools may affect the way you communicate with your consumers (image-heavy, text-heavy, entertaining, light-hearted, informative, or for conversation)

We are all familiar of the advantages when social media, brands and consumers happily collide – word of mouth, lead generation, sales, a new channel for customer insights and service. That’s what brands want.

But too often, brands neglect the real implications of social media on marketing, and on their business model.

 

So what is social media really? It has an effect on the entire business

1. Social media requires content

Is having a Facebook with posts that simply plug your site every week  considered a social media strategy?

Doing social media right requires content – social + media = social media.

And by content, we mean consumer-centric, SOCIAL content – stuff that people want, not web-friendly versions of your advertisements. Consumers primarily use social media to see what their friends and peers are up to, what their influencers are doing – your brand needs to earn that space in the consumer’s news feed, right up there with their network updates. Your brand needs to create relevant, engaging content that the consumer will derive value from.

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2. Social media requires a content strategy

Hence embarking on social media requires a content strategy – knowing what you will be talking about, when, where (the tools) and why. This requires some thought on:

  • Where your target consumers are hanging out and when
  • What your target consumers value
  • Where your consumers are in the sales funnel
However a content strategy doesn’t magically work by itself – you will need to invest to achieve return. Consider:
  • Management – who’s going to manage your content, promote it, and optimise it?
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3. Social media requires processes, guidelines

Because of the real-time nature of social media, consumer questions (and most importantly, complaints) on social media need to be acknowledged within 24 hours Рmore than half of Twitter users worldwide expect a personal response within 2 hours of tweeting a question/complaint, and 51% of Facebook users expect a same-day response. Being on social media opens up your brand to the public and your brand needs to be agile enough internally to be able to respond within consumer expectations.

Hence a solid social media strategy considers policies, guidelines and processes to allow for speed of execution when responding to consumers. These guidelines will also help to establish protection for your brand – those responsible for the brand’s social media need to know how to respond, and what they can and cannot say/do on social media.

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4. Social media requires a social business

Social media users expect to interact directly with a brand. From the customer’s perspective, the brand is the brand – the customer doesn’t care about departments. The answer or response they receive will directly affect their perception of your entire brand, and not just “your social media team” (the average customer probably doesn’t know that it exists).

When online consumer insights are placed front of mind within a business, the effects go beyond marketing and customer service, as we’ve just touched on, to impact all parts of the business: Here are a few ways social affects other parts of a business:

  • Website design and functionality (e.g. integrating the tools into the pages)
  • Communication in other media (e.g. complementing other channels)
  • Product cycle (e.g. helping to design new products, increasing speed to market, build early sales)

Because social media has enabled businesses to gain accurate, timely consumer insights, building social as a layer that touches on every aspect of the business (building a social business) can enable greater speed of execution, better products/services, better service, and foster viable innovations.

When a customer leaves a complaint on a brand Facebook page, they expect a personal response from the brand within 24 hours. Every layer of the business needs to be ready for social, so that each aspect of the business can be a part of the content, and each aspect can also contribute towards management of social media and responding to consumers on social media.

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Hence what social media really is:

  • A new form of media (content)
  • A new form of communication (internally with customers, and internally within the business)
  • A new way to collaborate and improve internal processes and efficiency
  • Real-time insights, measurement and accountability

 

So social media is about communicating better, faster, with more people and with more measurement – what business would say no to that?

 

But similarly, businesses need to be ready to keep up with the new consumption and communication habits of the customer as well:

  • Considering a long term social media strategy based on real business goals
  • Developing a content strategy and social media management strategy
  • Develop processes and guidelines to allow for scalability and speed
  • Integrating social media into other communications, brand assets and the entire business
Social media is so much more than media – it’s about the business.

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