To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Is That Really the Question?

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Ive used social media in my work for various businesses for nearly 8 years now. I also write a regular magazine column on the social web. So I could be described as an advocate for social media marketing. Yet I will freely admit that a lot of the social media stuff I see from brands is terrible. There are so many myths, so many mistakes and fluffy ideas that are repeated over and over and over. No wonder theres still a lot of confusion about how to use it or whether to use social media at all.

1

There are probably three groups in the audience.

Who is still a sceptic unconvinced that social media adds any significant value?

What about the novices? Are any of you trying to use it but just not sure how?

And who are the die-hards? Youre already committed, determined that it is essential for a successful business?

Of course the problem is all three of you can often be found in the same business. That makes it very hard to reach a consensus and establish social media as an accepted practice. After all, who is right? In my experience, none of you are actually wrong. 2

There is so much social media snake-oil out thereso much hypeits hard not to be cynical.

For years now, weve been told social media will cure whatever ails ya! It can bring in more customers, improve reputations, boost sales, reduce overheads, offer better customer service, attract better employees, all manner of wonderful benefits. But big claims also need to be backed up by big results if they are to be taken seriously.3

The Fournaise Marketing Group does regular research into the way businesses and marketers in particular demonstrate the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. In 2012 their research revealed that 80% of CEOs dont trust the work done by their marketers. However, 90% of the same CEOs trust and value the advice and analysis supplied by their CFOs. 4

In their latest research, they dug more into the nature of that disconnect. 71% of marketers surveyed framed effectiveness as about engagement. In fact, most of those believed engagement was the same as conversion. What is engagement? Thats what most CEOs and CFOs would like to know. But engagement usually means metrics such as social media followers, likes, shares and retweets, email opens web traffic and so on.

But are any of those engagement metrics the same as a conversion? How do they demonstrate a measurable benefit to the profit and loss figures of a business? How do you work out the ROI on a Facebook Like?5

This is why social media still struggles to be taken seriously in many businesses. It may be tolerated, but it may still not be trusted by those at the top. It has become an indulgence. Marketing insists we need it. Everyone else seems to have it so we should have it if only to maintain appearances. But the numbers dont necessarily prove anything. And that means social media constantly has to justify itself, fighting for approval out of sheer goodwill.

This happens time and time again because social media is implemented without a clear business case. Justifications are retrospective. Marketers are improvising as they go, doing what the hype says they should withoutin most cases I encounterreally understanding why or even how it really works.

So this presentation is aimed at all three of those groups I mentioned at the beginning: the sceptics the novices and the diehards. Because the answer to each of those questions is the same for all three.6

Heres why.

Social media is only one of a number of possible touches a person may have with a brand along the way to a conversion. Yet too often each area is treated as an individual silo with its own strategy. One team manages the website, another manages the SEO, the sales team are on the phones and the support team are managing phone enquiries too and so on. Someties these are even utsourced to different agencies or providers, further separating each while then demanding that each demonstrates effectiveness independently of all the others.

But the customer isnt seeing mulitple silos. Theyre seeing one brand in multiple channels. They expect the same messaging, the same tone of voice, the same advice on the blog or on Facebook as they get if they call the support number. But that often doesnt happen.

SO the first thing to recognise is that social media is inextricablylinked with every other part of your businessand every other part of your business is inextricably lined with social media.

That means you need a documented strategy.

Who here has a documented strategy that includes social media? Does that strategy lay out specific goals and how those goals will be measured?

Youre not alone. While most marketers will claim to have a strategy, less than half are usually documented. And that means every other stakeholder may have a different idea about what that strategy is. An undocumented strategy is like smoke. Its too easy to shift your thinking to fit the circumstances instead of objectively assessing success or failure based on what was originally intended. Were not objective people. If its in your head, its subjective. And subjective means everyone including your boss will have very different expectations about how to assess the success or failure of your strategy.8

How you measure each platform is also important. Likes, followers, shares and so on mean virtually nothing for your bottom line. Those numbers arent going to impress your CFO.

What is the intended outcome for each platform? How does it link to the broader strategy? Then measure those.9

And no, Awareness or Engagement arent business outcomes. Marketers often cite these as goals for social media, but how do you measure them? How can you show that increased awareness impacted the bottom line in any positive sense?10

What I see far more often than I would like is an approach that starts with the platform and then works backwards. We need a Facebook page.

Why? Well, because every business has a Facebook page. Sorry, not good enough. If youre setting up a Facebook page or a LinkedIn group or an Instagram channel just because you think you should, thats not a strategy.

You dont buy a spade and then trying to find a hole that needs digging. Once your lawn is covered in holes, it might be too late to realise what you really needed was a lawnmower.

Last week, the Content Marketing Institute in Cleveland released their latest benchmark report on Australian marketers. One of the many things it reveals is that LinkedIn has rapidly become the most popular platform for business. But that doesnt mean this is the mix you should follow. Only 24% of Aussie marketers use Slideshare, for example, but it can be an extremely powerful tool in certain specific use cases.

New social media platforms pop up all the time. Who here has come across Blab? Or YakYak? Dont adopt a tool just because its new or because of the hype. You can burn a lot of resources very quickly for no return that way.

Start with the goal. Always. What do you need to achieve in the business. Is this potentially a better way of achieving that goal? What current issues might be addressed or efficiencies improved with the right social media strategy? Not sure? Experiment. Start a pilot program but be very clear what will prove its effectiveness.

And each platform requires different things from you. You cant just blast the same message or content into all channels and expect results. The video that works on YouTube may fail on Facebook.

While people may use more than one platform, their behaviours and expectations will change for each. The content we seek out or discussions we join on LinkedIn will usually be more professional and work focused than on Facebook. If LinkedIn were a pin-striped suit, Facebook would be a Hawaiian shirt. So you need to adapt your approach, tailoring your messages and your content to fit.

Dont work with too many platforms. If you only have the resources and budget and business case for one platform, then focus on making that one platform successful. If it becomes possible to add another platform later, then do so only when it wont detract from the success of the first.

The more you stretch your budget and resources, the less effective you may become. Theres no room any more for mediocre. Your content and social media activity has to be effective.14

One way some businesses attempt to do more is through automation. But while automation is useful, it is not a replacement for genuine human interaction.

Automation is also hard to get right, which is why so often is is done poorly and with generic messaging that misses the whole point.

If we want to build valuable relationships in social media, we have to be turn up! Pushing a button such as a like or follow is a split second commitment. If we want our audience to do more than just push a button - and we should if we want to convert them we need to do more than just push buttons in return.

Businesses have a long history of demanding attention or broadcasting a message. But social media is a two-way street. We have to attract their attention and earn their respect before they will care about what we have to say.

And that means we have to speak the same lingo. We have to be approachable and show that were not that different to them.

I love this example from last year. Argos is a retailer in the UK and this conversation on Twitter became a bit of a sensation. The customer loved it and felt valued. Marketers applauded the Argos customer support guy for being so adaptable.

Of course you cant fake this kind of interaction. If the Argos guy got the lingo wrong, it could have come off as inauthentic a