We all love Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and even LinkedIn, but how does your company interact with these social sites? It’s my opinion that most companies waste time and huge amounts of energy trying to have a social identity. Most of the time people will say things like “we need to be more social” or “we have no social presence” and start creating these company pages that management expects will drive revenue and increase lead generation.
The reality for most companies is that they simply do not realize marketing on a social network is not the same as more traditional marketing channels and the expectations as to what Google+ and the like can really do for a company is really not the same. What I mean by that is if you have a twitter account for your company, what is the primary objective, is it to get a sale, a lead, brand awareness?
This really depends on whom you ask within your own company. From a top down approach an executive is thinking about one thing most of the time, profit and loss, so revenue and the bottom line is what they think it should be most of the time. Middle management lives in between the weeds and clouds so they are constantly trying to find out how to increase revenue, but also understand that it’s likely going to be an uphill challenge to pull it off. Non management usually does not have a horse in the game with revenue and goals, as such there is a stronger chance they might see the upside being all about followers and branding which I believe is the actual best approach and expectation for social marketing.
All 3 of these types of people have great intentions, but very different objectives,. This is one reason why most companies struggle with social networking. Misaligned objectives from day one can sabotage a social marketing initiative before it goes live.
There is also the audience factor to consider. These are social network’s and I know when I am on Facebook I am not about business at all. That’s my preference, but I suppose that if I am 1 out of a billion, there are millions that feel the same way. With that said, the behavior of a social interaction is not very conducive for a business unless it’s a staple of a brand or some kind of viral element that gets you known. There is nothing wrong with being a staple, but most companies are not anywhere near that stage in business and to be blunt, is it really a good business practice to expect a grand slam on a social network when these types of sites are still in their infancy stages? The answer to that one is obvious… You should be thinking about a steady approach over a longer period of time. Base hits win games…
These are hard truths that most companies deal with on a daily basis, but there are some that get it right and do not fit the criteria of being a huge staple or having some kind of viral social action. I am not 100% sure what the category is officially called, but I give it the name of a “grass roots movement”. I do not have many observed examples of companies having this luxury, in fact only one or two. I think that just like many other companies this one fell in to the same thought process that executive management initially wanted to increase their bottom line, but what made them different is the expectations shifted to “just letting your guard down” as a company (as much as could be let down anyway) and just integrate social activities with multiple marketing streams. Meaning, forget about any objectives or goals for a while and communicate with people and interact with them for no other reason than that. This develops trust with people and if you have trust, you can eventually reap the benefits later down the road. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, when we make a purchase for a car do we want to know the entire story about what we are buying, or do we want someone to only give us the pitch?
In closing, I think that social networks do have a place for business use, but I think that most companies simply think that cranking out a social page somewhere with some coupons will make millions. I think that you can make millions from social networking, but only as an assisted conversion. It is certainly not the driver, but possibly a contributor to the bottom line.