Talking Social Media to Senior Executives

Nov 17, 2011


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A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to address a number of CEOs and senior executives at a weekend retreat (The Executive Forum) at IBM's Armonk, NY campus. I shared with them "The State of Social Media," but the presentation could have easily been titled, "What Senior Executives Should Know About Social Media." Clearly, the latter was my intent.

Now none of this is secret information. So let me do the social thing and share ... share some good content with you. And the social story goes like this ...

Just about every individual is on the social media bandwagon, but still over 50% of companies have not integrated social into marketing and 70% have not integrated it into their overall strategy. ("The CMO Survey" from The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.) In reality, most would not know how to even go about integrating social media into their business.

Why?

According to Booz and Co. research in October, 2011, only 38% of CEO's have social media on their agenda and only 35% of companies have a senior executive who is responsible for company-wide social initiatives.

Corrective action starts by being a "social business" but what does that mean?

  1. Be Customer Centric - It is not about your company. It is about your target market. What is in it for them?
  2. Be Human - Recognize people like to do business with people, not companies.
  3. Engagement with the Target Market - And, oh, by the way, there are two types of engagement. Brand to user (bi-directional) and user-to-user. Yes, brands and users should converse and engage, but do not forget that users talk to other users. Work to get them to talk about your brand and share experiences.
  4. Build Relationships - Work on stronger relationships between your brand and your prospects and customers.
  5. Find Advocates - Ultimately you want to drive brand ambassadors and advocates to socialize your business for you.

If you start by understanding what it means to be a social business, you are ready to think about strategy and execution. I have always professed taking the Social Media A-Path to execute a social business and foster relationship building. The A-Path consists of gaining your target markets' ATTENTION, having them build an ATTRACTION for your brand, turning that attraction into AFFINITY, once affinity is captured, inviting them to be part of your AUDIENCE, and doing the appropriate things to turn a subset of your audience into ADVOCATES.

(You can get more information on The A-Path at "How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully".)

But executing is not enough. You must measure performance. Your metrics need to have relevance to the business KPIs (key performance indicators). Every business has different KPIs, but just about every business has sales as a KPI. Social media is not a great tool for sales. It is about building engagement and relationships with your market. So let's put social media in terms of sales. Most executives think from the perspective of a sales funnel: Awareness-Consideration-Sale. Loyalty and Advocacy are post-sale stages that should also be considered. So awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy all contribute to sales. They tee-up sales.

Thus, in social media, measurement parameters should be viewed from the perspective of awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Here are some thoughts on how you can measure these customer psycho-demographics in your social media execution:

  • Awareness - Awareness happens off your site or off your Facebook page and other digital assets. If someone is on your digital asset, they are already aware of your brand. Use a social media monitoring tool and look at the number of brand and URL mentions off your digital assets.
  • Consideration - If someone is considering your brand they inevitably show up on your website. Measure the visits and page views on your site.
  • Loyalty - People that are loyal opt in. They come back. They engage. Thus measure comments on your posts and blog, interactions, and sign ups such as RSS, friends, and followers.
  • Advocacy - Advocates produce positive referrals for your brand. We measure this by looking at the number of retweets, reblogs, and mentions with positive sentiment.

Now when you look at these numbers, you should not be concerned with a particular month's value or even if the number slips or goes up a bit from one month to another. What is important is to look at a normalized curve slope over a number of months and look for an upward trend in each category.

Now you have the basis for your social endeavors-a way to go about your execution and what to measure. And while you are thinking about that let me share with you a handful of observations I've made as an active participant setting social strategies and helping clients execute winning endeavors. Companies are just jumping on the social media bandwagon and are simply putting up a Facebook page, or Twitter feed without any thought to messaging strategy and how they will engage with their audience. Social media is not being used to leverage and reinforce the brands "desired" position. In fact many that are executing social media do not even know what their brand position is. Businesses that are not social cannot be successful with social media. There is a false expectation of short term success, a "get the sale" mentality; social media takes time to build momentum and combat inertia, but once it does velocity is high with little need to step on acceleration pedals. Still, you need awesome content. Would you ever share anything that was just OK? Visuals (picture and videos) have higher consumption rates than articles. (I should have made this post a video J).  "Thank yous" also really work; they help to draw people into a brand and feel a closer connection. But there is no social media success without a big commitment.

If you put this all together, there are some very important take-aways:

  • Work on a positioning statement documenting what you offer for the defined target market, benefits you deliver, named competition, and differentiation relative to competition. Do not communicate this, but make sure a majority of your owned media supports and reinforces the position.
  • Know your customer: Empathy might be the most important word for marketers - it shapes your marketing strategy and plan.
  • Determine the best places to engage. There are tons of social media channels. Go where your audience is already.
  • Be the subject matter expert and reinforce your position. Aim to be the go to source for (fill in the blank).
  • Don't just network, build relationships by delivering value, entertainment, and/or information.
  • Don't be corporate, humanize and show a personality. Plan how to win earned media. Plan how to get your owned media shared. Are you making it easy for your audience to pass along your content in a care free manner?

And there you have it folks. Social media needs to be on the agenda of senior executives that understand the business KPIs and are accountable for accomplishing them within their company. You cannot simply put social media in the hands of a young social whiz and expect results.

Make It Happen!


Steve Goldner (aka "Social Steve") is a Senior Director at MediaWhiz LLC where heads up their social media practice. You can follow him on Twitter @SocialSteve and read his weekly blog at http://socialsteve.wordpress.com .