Clueless about social media for business? Follow this …

  • Social media will be key to your company’s survival, so start working on your strategy now
  • Until you can hire someone with enough credible experience, you’ll need to work with agencies

Clueless about social media for business? Follow this … THE main objective of this series is to help you navigate the world of social media in business. Not just marketing, communications or customer service, but in all aspects of business.
 
For example, how can social media be used internally to foster collaboration? Yes, we’ll even look at measuring ROI (return on investment)!
 
The role of social media in today’s business landscape is indisputable. There are more than a billion people on it, the amount of time they spend on it is increasing and adoption rates in the >50-years-old group is the highest.
 
Let’s look at the results from the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report (click here for a PDF version) for an idea of what businesses report on how they have fared on social:

  • 94% of all businesses with a marketing department use social media as part of their marketing platform;
  • Almost 60% of marketers are devoting the equivalent of a full work-day to social media marketing development and maintenance;
  • 85% of all businesses that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy reported an increase in their market exposure; and
  • 58% of businesses that have used social media marketing for over three years reported an increase in sales over that period.

The writing is on the Wall (pun intended) – social media will be key to your company’s survival, so start working on your strategy now because the longer you wait, the more expensive it gets.
 
When I got into this in 2010, many brands adopted a wait-and-see attitude as social media was considered a fad that would quickly fade.  These same brands are now scrambling for a plan because, oops, it’s still around and proliferating at an astounding rate so much so it makes a zombie infestation of a small town seem lethargic.
 
As this is the first article of this series, let’s explore the challenges brands face when starting out.  The hard truth is, until you can hire someone with enough credible experience (which is probably less than 10 in Malaysia), you’ll need to work with agencies that can help you build expertise in this area.
 
Yes, you can read as much as you want about social media and do it on your own, but believe me when I tell you I was terrified making my first Facebook post and replying to the first comment. What made me feel better was knowing I had an agency guiding me!
 
So what are the top three issues faced by brands when starting out? I’ll share my experience when I was client-side:
 
Clueless about social media for business? Follow this … 1) Trusted advice
 
First, which agency can we trust? Do the people there know what they’re talking about? Stay away from anyone who calls himself a guru, ninja or superman.
 
In the beginning, you will need to create presentations for all the bosses upstairs to convince them about getting into social (unless the C-suite already gets it and now all you need to do is implement).
 
Depending on how tough your boss is, you may go through rounds of revisions in your presentation so it is best you have an agency that knows what they’re talking about because if the day comes where they need to present to your CEO and cannot answer a tough question, your career is toast.
 
2) Localized experience
 
The local landscape is about five years old and not many brands got in early. Do the math and you’ll quickly realize that only a handful of agencies have local experience as a result.
 
Why is local experience important? Simple – what works in the West may not work here, and what works in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand may not work here either.
 
I learnt this when we launched campaigns in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. The people in each country are very different so before spending RM100,000 on that campaign, you better have an idea of how well it will do!
 
3) Thought leadership and best practices
 
This can only come with experience. You want to run a rainbow-and-unicorn campaign (photo voting applications for example), anyone can do that for you.
 
You want to introduce Facebook banking? Facebook CRM (customer relationship management)? That’s a different story.
 
In addition, the strength of the tech team supporting a particular agency is very important. These lords-of-tech need to be the best at what they do if you’re going to launch campaigns that integrate with your organization’s back-end systems.
 
All right wise guy, so who do we work with? In next week’s article, I’ll share how you can tell the gurus, ninjas and supermen apart from the real deal agencies and consultants.
 
Note: Some gurus, ninjas and supermen may in fact be great social media practitioners; I just laugh at these designations. A rainbows-and-unicorns campaign is a term I coined to describe zero-value campaigns which clients fall for in their quest for fans.
 
Jagdish Singh is an ex-banker turned marketing and communications specialist with a deep interest in brands using technology and data to meet business objectives, and has been on both sides of the client/ agency divide.
 
Related Stories:
 
Social media marketing gurus and other mythical creatures
 
Making marketing sense of social media
 
Social media presents new challenges for marketing, PR
 

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