“The old computing was about what computers could do…the new computing is about what people can do“, Ben Shneiderman’s saying is as much relevant today as it ever was. The impact of social business and social technologies on our professional and personal lives is so profound that businesses now are re-thinking their strategies in the light of ‘social’ context. The social web offers a lot of opportunities by harnessing the tremendous potential offered by multiple disciplines ranging from marketing, consumer behaviour, information technology, design, data analytics, gamification and customer experience and cognitive psychology, to name a few. The nice thing with the social strategy is that virtually anybody or any company can get on the board, however it does not guarantee success to all players in the game. The definition of ‘success’ in this context is debatable and fairly open, so I shall consider effectiveness over success. In this post, I wish to highlight the key pitfalls you must avoid, which would help you to get it right with your social strategy.
1. Giving only lip service to ‘people power’
All along, we have been hearing companies and people claiming “we are in the people business“, or “I am a people person“. In the context of Social web, these phrases are now acquiring new meaning and perhaps ‘the correct’ meaning. Now more than ever, opportunities are opening up, which will enable you to really do what you mean and put people in the rightful place they belong to and given the attention they deserve. Whether its the customers who bought your products, users who are facing problems using them or those people, who you think, know you by your name or brand are becoming your potential target audience. The nets are widening to reach out to the larger audience and in the broadest of contexts. The social channels are helping organisations reach out, listen to customers’ heartbeats and not just their voices, and providing support to the needy in real time. I have seen instances on Twitter when British Gas attempted to respond, advise and resolve the issues of their customers, on Twitter.
2. Getting aboard all the social trains
Resist the temptation to get on to every social and professional network available. As the old saying goes, “tell me your company and I shall tell you who you are”, the same holds true with the social channels and networks. Carefully consider who your target users are and identify those networks where your presence adds value to your brand, offerings and customers. For instance, just because everybody is creating a Facebook page, you don’t have to create one, when your product is targeted to the older generation users or high-security defence-component manufacturers. Look out for the maximum buzz and check if it suits you to have your presence there. Also, sometimes it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality. For example, Facebook and Twitter might have millions of users, but just focusing on them may not work well, if you are a large brand with global presence and rich legacy. To better leverage your interests and aspirations, a different network, say Pinterest could be a better bet, considering that it is the fastest-growing social network specially for the big brands out there.
Answering the following questions will help you choose the networks, wisely!
- Who are my target audience?
- What is my real offering and how does it help the users?
- Where (which online networks) can I find my target audience, the most?
- What is the nature of my business offering – social/professional?
- Which networks should I consider for my presence?
3. Thinking “Social is the flavour of the season”
From businesses, news corporations, traditional media houses, celebrities and common people, everybody is getting active on the social networks. Don’t just focus on the social aspects at the cost of losing the advantage with traditional media. You need to ensure that there is harmony and congruence in your offline and online presence. Yes, it is true that to host a campaign on Facebook or run a series of hashtag tweets on Twitter it might be a lot cheaper or perhaps costs nothing. Add to that it could be the easiest thing to create, track and manage campaigns on these online networks. However, without careful consideration and calculation of cost-benefit analysis, don’t ditch the traditional marketing channels and rely solely on the social channels. With all the positive vibes going around with the social media, there is also another side that needs to be looked at. These social media can make or mar the reputation of your brand in no time with as much ease and speed you had in creating the campaign. For instance, McDonalds ran a campaign on Twitter with the hashtags #McDStories and #MeetTheFarmers, but the campaign backfired thanks to the comments by some ‘enthusiastic’ users and their sarcastic tweets on McDonalds and their products.
4. Excessive focus on your products and services
Gone are those days when only your customers and users were talking about the products and services that they bought and used. You were happy interacting with the people you know – whether its your preferred partners, loyal customers or willing prospects. Now the context is changing rapidly and the landscape has been extending further to prospective customers, friends of users. The World is indeed becoming one global village with inter-connected networks and individuals, intersecting each other in a criss-cross fashion. The interactions that you encourage among the various stakeholders, customers, users and followers need to be focused on the brand and not necessarily the products or services alone. Newer measures and metrics such as awareness, engagement, influence, reach, buzz and total customer value are complementing the good old measures like sales per product line, customer satisfaction index.
5. Quitting before you start seeing the benefits
Let us accept it, just because you have hopped on to the social strategy earlier does not make you a leader in your industry. Getting social has become a sanity factor and more of a tick on your checklist, than a well-thought strategic directive. Often it takes more effort, time and perhaps other resources such as people, money too, to take off to a proper shape. Don’t give up just yet. Here are a few tips that will help you get better at the game of social media.
- Set realistic goals which need to be tracked on a continual basis
- Be persistent with your efforts
- Learn from the leaders and follow the paths which worked right for them
- Monitor the impact of social operations on your core business
- Track and analyse the key measures and metrics to assess how you are performing