TopRank Marketing Editor

Adopting Social Media in the Enterprise

MIMA Enterprise Social Media Panel

Late last week, Lee, Jolina and I attended the event, Dual Reality: Who Controls Social Media in the Enterprise, sponsored by the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA). As we sat in the front row, eagerly awaiting the discussion panel to emerge, we reviewed the roster of panelists, including Interactive Directors (titles varying from one company to the next) from Fortune 500 Companies such as Target, Best Buy, General Mills, and Fingerhut. The question in everyone’s mind was: How are corporations really leveraging social media to reach customers online?

The answer is that most companies, large and small are still figuring out where social media as a communication and engagement platform fits. It’s a process of try, test and try again. Organizationally, adopting social media has it’s challenges as Jeremiah Owyang describes in his post Tire, Tower and Wheel.

When asked how Corporations are monitoring these conversations, the response across the board included ‘ratings and reviews’. Customers are talking about your company online and the companies that are doing well with social media are being responsive, not just sitting back and watching, said Gary Koelling, Creative Director of Social Technology for Best Buy.

The panel agreed, responsiveness is key to engaging customers socially, offering some tips on how to respond:

  • Be authentic in your response
  • Provide value to your customer
  • Give tools that empower your customers to be evangelists

Who is doing well with social media? Jason Kleckner, Manager of Information Architecture for Target Corp, believes Circuit City is leading in terms of live chat and customer feedback. Ernest & Young was also named by the panel as a benchmark for their innovation with social media.

So, what does it mean to be social? Jim Cuene, Director of Interactive for General Mills states the ‘how can I help you’ mindset of the retail industry is more easily transferable to social media than it is from mass brands. Where Gary Koelling with Best Buy believes if we did a psychoanalysis of Fortune 500 Companies today, most would come across as sociopaths because of the lack of social engagement with their customers. Our culture has let Corporations get away with being non-social for so long. The challenge today is the introduction of new interactive technology like Facebook and Digg is forcing Corporations to be social.

The panel offered the following advice to Corporations looking to give social media a try:

  • Listen to your customers
  • Follow along with the conversation
  • Try new tactics to engage your audience
  • When you fail, try again!

I’m reading a great book right now titled, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules by Mike Moran. The book lends advice to companies looking to interact with their customers online, and discusses different tactics to try and how to get started. I would recommend reading this book for some great ideas to get you started 🙂

How are you measuring social media, and justifying expenditures? Gary Koelling with Best Buy sees social media as an opportunity cost, what are you losing by not engaging with your customers? New social technology is allowing companies to reach customers at a lower cost then ever before. The beauty of social media is that you don’t have to roll out a ten million dollar program. If you can’t engage your customers socially for next to free, then you are listening to the wrong advice.

In terms of ROI, Jim Cuene with General Mills believes that if you are pulling funds from your marketing or advertising budget for social media, you won’t see a return on investment. Rather, social media should be a part of product development. Brad Smith, VP of eCommerce & Digital Marketing with Fingerhut, adds that the consumers have always owned the brand; Corporations are really just accelerating product development.

It’s hard to determine an ROI for social media. Relationships are part of the measurement, and are something you build over an extended period of time, not typically seen as an immediate result. Participation is the value. People are interacting with each other like normal people again, which is a shift from the past 60 years said Koelling with Best Buy.

Corporations have to deliver on brand promises. The brand has to stand for something, and social media is a great channel to communicate your position. The challenge is to find the authentic voice of the brand online.

What are your future predictions for social media? As seen in the evolution of email over the past five years, technology will continue to evolve and help people connect. Sharing information online is just going to keep getting faster and easier. Brands will have to act more like people. We will start to see an evolution in brand trust because of it. Cuene with General Mills comments that we have to start treating each individual person as a media outlet, everyone can write about your brand, share pictures and tell stories online.

The online experience will continue to become more important with advanced applications, images and content to engage visitors.

One of the key messages from this panel was that the best way to get started with social media is to try, experiment with different tactics and channels to reach your customers, and when they don’t work, try again.

I’m curious, what different social tactics has your company tried that have either failed miserably or have helped to make a connection with your customers online?

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  1. For many companies, the hardest part seems to be to letting go of the “look” of their traditional print marketing when they move into social marketing. On of the writers on out site called it “Going beyond pretty

    It’s really tough for people who came up through the ranks making attractive layouts and using flowery language to “sell” a product or image, to kind of leave that all behind and focus on the VALUE in the message. As time goes by, and those traditional marketers are replaced with more and more wired marketers, it will become second nature. But for now, those of us leading the charge at older companies face a daily battle over replacing large images and logos with content and links, and “what do you mean you want to let customers post their questions, concerns and complaints in plain view!!!”

    Thanks for the good info. I will be back to read more!

  2. Thanks Lindsay – I couldn’t agree with you more. Making the transition from traditional print marketing to online marketing requires a shift in what we see as providing value to our customers. I think the best way to internally sell that value is by identifying the benefit to the organization and showing results, whenever possible. For those matured organizations, it might seem like a big leap of faith to move out of their comfort zone and try something different. But in the long run, their customers will thank them for it.

  3. Avatar Joe Anderson says

    If a company follows one of their customers on Twitter, for example, they are forging a relationship, promoting themselves and making that customer feel valued. Politicians use this to good effect.

  4. Thanks for the plug, Jessica. I think one of the hardest things about social media is that marketers are taught to “message markets” instead of talk to a person. Marketers need to “unlearn” some of what they know to make this work. I’ve encouraged PR pros to break out of their traditional mold and realize that they are the storytelling experts–PR people know how to tell a story that customers will pass on, but most don’t know it. Or they think viral marketing is, er, marketing–so it’s not for them. I’m hopeful some of these role walls will begin to break down so marketers and PR folks can teach each other what they know. That will help them experiment more creatively and find what works more quickly. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  5. Thanks Jessica. Well written.

  6. We think there’s a great opportunity for integrating social networking features into direct response online campaigns, such as landing pages for very highly targeted audiences.

    If a marketer is already doing to hard work to bring a specific niche of people to a particular destination — i.e., a Long Tail ad to a Long Tail landing page — think of the value that could be unleashed by letting those respondents connect to each other?

    A quick take of our thoughts on these social landing pages.

  7. Great article! It truly is hard to prove to businesses the value of social media as it is such an intangible and is hard to measure or track the success of it in many cases.

  8. I found this to be a really engaging article, as I like to keep my eye on where things are going with social media. I think a lot of businesses have been slow to catch on to the potential of this, and it is great to stay ahead in the game. Thanks!