Despite the near absolute adoption of social media technologies in companies, for both internal and external communications, it seems that many are still unsure of the benefits of social media tools and indeed whether the strategy they're employing is actually working for them. It's true to say that social media is still in a state of infancy compared to more established marketing/communication methods, but this can only really last so long. Given the proliferation of social media technologies we now have, it's essential that the adoption of these grows up, if they are to reach their full potential for business.
To provide some context into this, it's worth looking at the most recent findings from the Altimeter report: A Strategy for Managing Social Media Proliferation. Here they look at real-world use of social media across a range of companies, with some surprising results. Perhaps most telling is the fact that less than half the companies surveyed (just 48 per cent) claim that they have a co-ordinated approach to social media:
It doesn't take a genius to work out that such an approach is ultimately self-destructive. If use of social media by businesses continues in this way, it will only get the marketing dollars it deserves for a short amount of time. So what are the components of a good social media strategy, that can help you achieve what you need to?
Ford - choosing the right representative
Social media is more about people - and importantly individuals - than any other form of marketing we've come across to date. Therefore the people that represent you on social media channels or are in charge of your social media strategy have to not only be a good embodiment of your brand, but also be heavy social media users themselves.
A good social media strategy should be developed from an innate understanding of social channels themselves; something you can only get if you actually use these channels. There's really no better example of this than Scott Monty, head of social media for Ford. As well as having an active Twitter account and being a regular speaker on the social media circuit, he also maintains a regular blog on social media. The popularity and authority of this can be shown alone in the fact that a recent post gained nearly 1,000 tweets.
It is for this reason (though not solely this) that Ford is continually pushing boundaries in social media, most recently shown with the development of the Ford Fusion app, which offers an interactive experience ahead of the launch itself. As well as choosing the right representatives which will develop forward-thinking strategies, this will also give you a built-in launchpad for your products, off the personal following your employees will have built up.
Dominos - let your brand have a personality
Dominos has shown us how social media can and can't be done, but a great example that should be followed comes from the fact that Dominos isn't afraid to let their brand develop a personality. This can be seen perfectly in the case of Ramon de Leon. Ramon runs six Domino's franchises in Chicago and has become something of a cult social media superstar, using a number of social media tools way before they reached the mainstream. He even ran his own micro-blog using AOL messenger before Twitter came along.
Ramon is a huge personality, becoming a very personal embodiment of the brand. This serves Dominos extremely well as Ramon travels the world telling others how Dominos does social media, establishing them as a leading brand. See him in action recently, delivering pizzas via live tweets:
Insert Gamer - Strategic Facebook advertising
Though it is growing into a more advanced area for brands, many still see Facebook advertising as too simple, merely throwing a small budget at it and expecting the fans to magically appear. If you develop a sophisticated Facebook advertising strategy however, you'll find better, cheaper, more targeted results. Insert Gamer proved this with a great case study from when they started to experiment with Facebook ads.
Firstly, they made clever use of the advertising options available to them. Not only did they target ads at their competitors' pages, but they took people that clicked on these ads through to a survey on their Page, allowing them to gain more advanced data than would normally be provided by Facebook. Off the back of this, they then refined their ads further, to give them a small potential target group of 2,500. This included criteria such as targeting more active fans. The results were 509,000 new fans in 60 days, but most importantly an increase of engagement on the Page of 645 per cent.
Virgin - if there's something great, use it
Social media is particularly vulnerable to the pressure to innovate and constantly do something new. It's easy to become so obsessed by this that you might miss a great opportunity that just happens to exist already. A good example of a company using an existing opportunity is Virgins Awkward Family Photos campaign. The campaign itself was hugely successful - simply offering a prize for the best family vacation shots that were embarrassingly cheesy or just plain awkward. Rather than building a new site however, the campaign focused on sponsoring the existing Awkward Family Photos site. The campaign was cleanly integrated, as users could submit photos either through this site or through the Virgin Facebook Page, which helped ensure brand consistency. The result was a hugely successful campaign that had a ready-made, new audience through the already popular AFP site.
PostCard Mania - measure for success
While for many brands the actual success for their social media activities is unknown, this is starting to change and an essential component of a good social media strategy is clear measurement. Postcard Mania showed how this could work, as clear measurement of their activity lead to an additional $72,000 in revenue on LinkedIn. When they were looking at the success of their activities, they saw that campaigns on Facebook and Twitter were generating traffic, but little business leads.
What they did was to develop a content-led approach that was personalized through the company founder's LinkedIn profile. This allowed them to target the right decision makers that would ultimately purchase their product. Had Postcard Mania not effectively measured their activity however, they would have had little reason to change strategy and would have missed out on huge potential revenue while wasting money on the channels that weren't working for them.