Making marketing sense of social media

  • Most brands want to be on social media only because it is the ‘in’ thing
  • Focus less on numbers; social is about a real-time collection of people

Making marketing sense of social mediaIN my day-to-day discussions and engagements on brand marketing in the digital space, I am sometimes bombarded by a slew of questions challenging the effectiveness of social media and what it can do for brands in a positive way.
One cannot deny the power of social media when approached with the right spirit. As I observe how the world is being revolutionized by this phenomenon, it gets my adrenaline rushing because there is just so much more that we can do.
However, therein lies the challenge.
The fact that everyone is talking about social media causes a euphoric rush in the number of brand platforms that are currently trying to capture a share of the available digital real estate. However, when one digs deeper, many are still only treading the surface of what is possible.
Faced with the question, “Why do you want to be on social media?” the often-heard answer is, “Because it is the IN thing.” Most though, would rather not admit it even if a gun were to be pointed at them.
Let me share some of popular questions that I’ve encountered and you can tell me if it matches any of those you’ve experienced yourself:

  1. What is the ROI (return on investment) of social media?
  2. How am I able to track the effectiveness of social media?
  3. Why should I pay X dollars to set up of a Facebook page? It’s free, isn’t it?
  4. What if people complain? Shouldn’t we delete their comments and just keep those that make us look good?

And my personal favorite … “How can you increase my fan count?”
Making marketing sense of social mediaMetrics versus understanding
As I write this, I feel that we brand marketers have also been partly guilty for presenting our results previously with the extensive use of metrics because that’s what most clients need to justify the investment.
Though I have begin to realize that the more metrics are emphasized, the more we become obsessed with numbers and forget the most crucial part of social media – a real-time collection of people and their characteristics and habits.
So, how is it possible to use traditional marketing metrics as the framework to determine ROI for something as organic and humanized as social media? Why have we stopped trying to understand the online behavior and habitual triggers of our consumers? Do we optimize our approach to create more positive brand reactions? Will we then track the results of those approaches that will lead to insights and actions in the marketplace?
If we were to answer “Yes” to the above, isn’t that ROI in the making?
Here are some of the defining questions that I would normally ask:

  1. What do you expect out of participating in social media?
  2. What is your purpose?
  3. What can you contribute to your community through social media?
  4. Do you have a proper action and reaction plan?
  5. Who is the person in charge of social media and does that person have enough clout to bring all other pillars of the business (CRM, sales, finance, support, etc.) to solve a common customer problem if it came out of social media?
  6. What is your game plan for reaching out, engaging with your digital community, building trust and then converting them into fulfilling your business goals?

Commit or wither away

So why aren’t brands placing more focus on behavioral understanding and optimizing their marketing methods using social media? Because it is too bloody difficult and requires a lot of hard work, time and commitment – kinda like a marriage.
The partners that my team and find most successful have a synergistic working relationship with us where we commit certain amount of time towards us understanding the brand, and them about the digital ecosystem. We then help each other to determine and align goals, delivery plans, timelines and checkpoints. We also work closely together to find solutions that can make the customers online happier and feel that they are part of the brand.
It takes time, but I am hopeful that as an industry, we are gradually getting the hang of it. In the meantime, stay patient my fellow brand marketers, and I hope you can also share with me some of the best practices and challenges that you’ve encountered during these exciting times.
Alex Ooi is passionate about integrated communications and loves to discuss the future of brand marketing. He can be reached via LinkedIn and Twitter
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