Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon and we are still learning of the power and influence that it has, and the benefits that it can bring to our lives. This is particularly true regarding organisations that have struggled in many cases to get to grips with what social media can potentially offer to them. Some organisations have written off social media as a “passing fad”. Other more savvy business owners have seen that it almost certainly can have some benefit for their businesses but really understanding how it can be leveraged for success has proven to be difficult for them. In 2011, Richard Hanna, Andrew Rohm and Victoria L. Crittenden examined the power of the social media ecosystem in a study published in Business Horizons. As they rightly argue:
“Consumers are no longer merely passive recipients in the marketing exchange process. Today, they are taking an increasingly active role in co-creating everything from product design to promotional messages.”
Social media has driven this change. This has led to the dispelling of many myths that have now turned out to be outdated or untrue. For example ideas such as: brand managers own and orchestrate their brands; phones are for making phone calls; and providing a forum for customers to talk is dangerous and risky, have all been thrown out. None is viable anymore. At the same time, social media has led to the development of platforms where organisations can gain influence. Of these, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google + are particularly important but the number of platforms is growing by the day. This has led to organisations experimenting on each to see what works and how they can attract customers.
One learning that has become apparent is that social media platforms are spheres of influence where organisations can engage customers. Such platforms create the opportunity for relationships to be built between customers and organisations. It is argued that the new approach that can help organisations to be successful is no longer about telling the customers a message, but rather, having conversations with customers. It is now all about engagement, and simply repeatedly promoting a brand in a sales-like manner on these platforms is not enough – in fact it is most likely to lead to customer disengagement. Customers do not want to just watch from the side lines anymore. Rather, they are involved and they interact, and social media campaigns by businesses need to reflect this change, or fail.
How To Integrate The Social Media Strategies ?
One problem that is all too commonly seen with organisations and their interaction with social media is that there is no one overarching strategy that applies to all platforms. Indeed, frequently organisations take a piecemeal approach to each platform and there is no consistent message. While marketers need to apply a consistent message and approach they do however have to bear in mind that each platform is different –what people are looking for on YouTube is not the same as on LinkedIn or as on Twitter. The message must be consistent but platform-appropriate. This can be challenging to achieve for many businesses. There are marketing questions that organisations need to ask themselves to be able to achieve success in this area such as: who is the target audience? On what platforms are different segments of the target audience? What content is the business trying to promote? And finally, how can this content be best propagated through the social media ecosystem? In considering and answering these questions, organisations have a much greater likelihood of success in their social media strategies.
Recommendations have been made for organisations that are trying to navigate this brave new world where conflicting advice may often make things challenging. For one, the old marketing basic of applying and measuring performance indicators is important to making sure that success is achieved, or if not, lessons are learned. Another one is that budgets do not have to be great to succeed in this area – but common sense does need to be applied. Understanding where those that can influence brand success exist on the different platforms is also helpful, and leveraging that influence is even better. Standing out from the crowd is important, as with any sort of marketing. Finally telling a story can help to reel customers in. Do you apply these lessons when you use social media to promote your business? Perhaps it’s about time you started.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.