It’s safe to assume that nearly every company now has some type of social media strategy – from organizations that maintain a corporate Facebook page and Twitter account to global, Fortune brands whose programs span dozens of brands, regions and countries across every social network.
But while one could argue that social media has become part of today’s business DNA, it’s important to remember we’re still in the early stages of its evolution. Even the savviest brands still hold misconceptions keeping them from increasing the business impact of their social programs.
Here are five common beliefs about social media that don’t stack up to reality and need to be dispelled.
Myth 1: “Social can’t impact the bottom line.”
Truth: Many assume that social media’s effect is only seen in a company’s marketing department, but the reality is that social affects every area across the company. Social engagement should create lasting relationships, and this in turn influences every department - from engineering and design, to sales, customer support, business development and beyond.
As such, companies need to ensure that their overarching social program is aligned with other business units of the organization. Brands will need to become adept at using social insights to change the way they conduct business across the board, and then analyze the impact social has on the bottom line – not just the marketing budget. Companies that will see the most impact are those that are speaking the same language – social speaking the language of business and businesses speaking the language of social.
Myth 2: “Our social strategy is aligned with our overall marketing strategy.”
Truth: While most marketers recognize that social media is a critical component of their digital strategy, few have fully integrated their marketing programs across the entire mix of paid, owned and earned – online and offline. According to research from the Altimeter Group, only 26% of companies surveyed reported that they approach social media holistically, with business units operating with an enterprise vision and strategy.
Combining all areas of owned, earned and paid marketing takes an enormous amount of planning and oversight, but failing to do so results in a diluted brand and unfulfilled impact of social experiences. Brands that unite these efforts get more value out of their work. Earned media can inform strategy for owned efforts; owned performance provides insights into effective paid opportunities; and both paid and owned can fuel earned media by building word of mouth. The first step to a truly integrated marketing strategy is internal collaboration and alignment.
Myth 3: “We’ve hired a social team, so we’re all set.”
Truth: A social program flourishes when employees across all teams, departments and geographies can interact with customers, prospects and partners. And yet many companies still tightly control who can contribute content to their social channels, and require this content to go through strict review processes. Or worse, they only allow social-focused employees to contribute. The result? Stilted, unnatural social interactions that don’t focus on customer experiences and fail to engage users.
Instead, companies should encourage employees to contribute content to their social channels. Brands can put policies in place as to what type of content is appropriate and fits the brand message, but should give employees access to proliferate relevant content and conversations. While it’s complex to open up contribution across an enterprise, it’s possible when companies have the right infrastructure and strategic guidance. By harnessing the full workforce, a company can connect its customers to a wide-range of expertise, useful content and help at the moment it is needed – the same way it does on other communication channels.
Myth 4: “We have access to all the data we need to know about our social audience.”
Truth: Social practitioners have access to a wealth of social metrics from both the social networks themselves and various point solutions used by social teams, but these raw metrics don’t actually provide insight. Numbers are just numbers – it’s what you do with them that really matters.
Going forward, brands need to push themselves to go beyond simply regurgitating raw numbers and vanity metrics ("likes" and "follows"). With the implementation of best-of-breed technology platforms, brands can dig deeper to segment and analyze their social data to truly understand their customers. This deeper comprehension arms brands with the ability to identify how social experiences affect their business by putting a lens on audience preferences, content, engagement trends, demographics and psychographics. And what’s more, integrating this social data with existing business systems (a CRM system or Web analytics platform, for example) can provide a 360-degree view across the customer lifecycle.
“The brands with the biggest audiences must be doing social really well.”
Truth: Early conventional wisdom in social media dictated that audience size was the most important measure of success. Brands raced to acquire fans and followers by any means necessary. Short-term tricks and gags were the order of the day – random contests, like-gated content – anything to move the “like” count. This focus only served to reinforce the message to the rest of the organization that social is only about audience size. Bad message. Social is about connection and relevance.
To keep both users and the networks happy, brands need to focus on engagement – not audience size. The brands that are succeeding in social are delivering relevant experiences to an audience that cares. That audience, in turn, is taking action in ways that matter to the brand’s core business – like buying products and services, referring friends and helping spread the brand message to their social graph.