So I'm asked this one all of the time: what will social media do for my business? How will I know if it's working?
Here are ten things that - at a bare minimum - social media should do for your company. If they're not doing these things, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your strategy.
And maybe you don't have a strategy at all? Picking just a couple of these would be a good place to begin to help refine your use of "social" so that there's measurable goals and objectives and outcomes.
1. Develop a Lead Channel, Direct Marketing List, and Cultivate Referrals.
I frequently write in my books and blog that direct email marketing is becoming more challenging. As of 2010, 89 percent of all email is spam and the technology to blacklist and filter spam is becoming quite efficient, and, consumer's preferences towards email are changing. Social media is a way to develop and cultivate consumer contact for lead-generation and a means to encourage others to pass business along to you.
2. Enable Connection.
Social should enable connection. I like to say that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the juice that brings the web traffic to a website, but what makes them "stick"? It's relationship. Social enables connection. Social should make it easy to connect to cultivate relationships. It makes it easy for a potential consumer to LIKE and follow brands; to subscribe to thought-leaders; to connect with other like-minded professionals. Your company's use of social media should enable connection - in both the front office (between sales staff and customer) and the back office (in terms of professional relationships).
3. Enable Speed and Rapidity.
Social media is pretty convenient. If you can tweet to a brand and say, "I had a problem with XYZ - can you fix it?", and then they're able to address it, and maybe send you a confirmation or update, that's pretty fast and convenient. If a customer or potential client can ask somebody a question on Facebook and get an a response, that's pretty fast and convenient. Think about how social media could be used to make it easy, fast, and convenient for your customers to contact you using social media.
4. Enable Listening and Feedback (and Corrective Action).
People are telling you things about your company all of the time. In social media, the consumer expects that you're listening. You should be. What's your listening strategy? How are you listening to commentary and correcting the problems brought to light by the customer? How do you make it right?
5. Enable Sharing.
Social should be used to enable others to share ideas into their own social network fluidly and without special licensing, sign-ups, or access restrictions. Your company should make it as easy as possible to share intellectual property, ideas, marketing materials, white papers, video ... any content so that others can share and promote those ideas for you online. Sharing is an intrinsic part of social media. How're you enabling sharing and making it easier for others to share what you do?
6. Enable Accessibility.
Social media should make it easier to get in touch with you and your team. It should make your owner/CEO reachable by click to an audience of spectators. Sites like Quora can pull ideas out of the heads of your leadership and lay it out there for others to read and respond to. Imagine being able to see something online and forward the link to the officer of a company, and get their feedback on the issue. It's about making you and your team closer, more accessible, to clients and investors and shareholders than ever before.
7. Create a Persona Around Your Brand.
I often discourage using Twitter. It's just not an effective tool for building relationships, but it is an effective bullhorn that can pull subscribers into a destination to get more content and become exposed to more ideas. Twitter is a cult-of-personality tool: people follow people because they're interested in what they have to say. You can take a President, for example, as a representative of the brand/company, and create a cult of personality around them, thus personifying the brand. On Facebook, the nature of posts plugged into a wall can create a whole following around the style and substance of the posts, thus fostering the persona and values behind the brand. Social should try to make a person out of your company or brand so that it's more reachable and identifiable.
8. Develop an Audience and Community.
In social media, everybody is their own media company, even businesses and corporations. If every subscriber is offering their consent to be contacted and marketed to, it's an audience willing to receive your message and interested in your product and service. How can you leverage a bunch of always connected customers waiting to hear from you? Why, let us count the ways ...
9. Foster Trust.
Every communication and act on social media reinforces relationship and demonstrates to the customer why you can be trusted. Maybe your message conveys a testimonial, your expertise, your experience, a tactic you used to solve a problem, and so on. It's constantly demonstrating value. Think about that: how is social building more trust with your audience?
10. Allow for Transparency.
Finally, social media is about the deconstruction of institutional power in favor of smaller, more individual power. It's about listening, getting closer to your customer, and building trust. It's about being more accessible. It's about being innovative, fast, and convenient. All of these things make for a more transparent company: a company whose practices are accessible by and visible to the general public. How does social make your company and its practices more crystal-clear?
There are a lot of things social media can do for your company and this list isn't nearly exhaustive, but it is a starting place. Just a couple of these objectives could become the catalyst for doing some real, meaningful, and astounding with social in your company. Where you go from here is up to you, but whatever you do, work on making social media provide value to every person who offers you their time and attention.