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 â€˜ratings and reviewsâ€™. 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 â€˜how can I help youâ€™ 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!
Iâ€™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 donâ€™t have to roll out a ten million dollar program. If you canâ€™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 wonâ€™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.
Itâ€™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 donâ€™t work, try again.
Iâ€™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?