In an effort to better involve themselves in social media, many brands still attempt to decide which channel to hop on.
It's easy to do this. It's easy to be attracted to whatever the bring and shiny object may be at the moment. Brands can be like little, distracted squirrels when it comes to social media. Some have already tinkered in places like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, while others simply haven't invested the time and resources to figure out which one will serve them best. Many are wondering if Instagram, Vine and Pinterest can help them be better and do more. Most brands have fundamental challenges with the platforms because, while they are free to connect and engage with, it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge, patience and effort for it to bear juicy fruits. With that, the popularity of online social networking has also brought with it the complexity of paid media as well. For a lot of this more corporate content to rise above, it must now be boosted and supported with significant media dollars. We're seeing everything from fan acquisition paid media strategies to companies that are paying to promote individual posts and tweets to garner attention. It sounds a lot like traditional media... and that's because it is. Still, there are many brands (especially in the small and medium-sized business space) that are experiencing great returns by simply being present, helpful and interesting to customers and potential clients. If all of this sounds complex, it is because it is complex. The best way to understand this brave new word of marketing is to think of it as a publishing platform. Brands can create content (in text, images, audio and video) much in the same way that a publisher can create content, and brands can advertise on these publishing platforms as well. The biggest paradigm shift (that most brands still fail to comprehend) is that within this model, brands can also be the publisher or build their own publishing platform (meaning, they are no longer at the mercy of the publisher to run the content or negotiate the ad space with). It's enough to make any business throw their hands up in the air and give up entirely.
A way to step back, but still win at social media.
When asked where to start with social media, most gurus, thought leaders and ninjas will tell brands to listen. Spend some time on these channels listening to what consumers are talking about. Are they mentioning your brand, your competitors or the industry that you serve? It is sound advice and something that many brands can start doing right at this moment. There are free tools (like Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts) that can give you a semblance of what is being said, but times have changed. Social media is now close to fifteen years old (older, if you really want to get specific about when the popularity of blogging first took hold). There has been many layers of maturation in the space. Now, brands can (and should) be doing a lot more than just listening, when they decide to take the plunge into social media. In fact, if you're still on the fence with social media, there is one big, major and fascinating thing that you can do to better understand not just social media, but how your brand is competitively performing in the marketplace: invest in a social media analytics tool.
Start with social media analytics.
This isn't about measuring your brand efficacy in digital marketing (at least not yet), it's about taking the first step (and making that first step a lot more power and profound than simply listening). Now, as a brand, you can gather insights about your business, your competitors and the industry that you serve like never before. Last week, eMarketer posted a news item titled, Marketers Adopt Social Media Analytics Tools, that looked at some new research on how close to two-thirds of companies in North America have adopted some kind of social media analytics tool (and how the increase has really taken shape in the past two years). What makes this research so compelling to brands who are not immersed in the digital marketing and social media space is how these tools are being used by organizations. According to the article, here is the breakdown:
- Campaign tracking - 60%
- Brand analysis - 48%
- Competitive intelligence - 40%
- Customer care - 36%
- Product launch - 32%
- Influencer ranking - 27%
- Owned/earned media analysis - 18%
- Product innovation - 11%
- Category analysis - 11%
- Risk management - 3%
- Partner monitoring - 3%
What is this list screaming to you?
All of these activities. All of them. Can be used for every kind of business and you don't need a social media presence to benefit from the results. I would argue that augmenting your current marketing and communications strategies with social media is smart, but that's an entirely other conversation piece. Think about what these new (and constantly improving) social media analytics tools can tell you about everything that you are doing to grow your business. Even if all you are doing is taking out local ads in the newspaper and on radio, a good social media analytics tool can let you know how that campaign is tracking (are people talking about it online, sharing it, etc...), it can tell you how well your brand is perceived, what people think of your competitors, how well you are handling customer service issues and so much more.
Beyond listening. Beyond doing.
Sadly, most brands see social media analytics tools as an engine to better understand how they are performing in social media. Instead, the true opportunity is in understanding just how powerful and profound these tools are in giving you a true temperature check on the overall health of your business and the brand. Have you had success on Facebook? What about Twitter? If your peers are trying to talk you into (or out of) using these channels to build your business, it is in your best interest to start with a strong social media analytics tool and from there start building a true marketing strategy that is driven by your business goals. No need to to hop on the latest craze, and no need to just listen to chatter any longer. Do yourself, your business and your future a favor. Start paying attention to everything that is going on in the social media space, and use these analytics as a barometer for what's happening in your business and what you can do - with each and every passing day - to improve it.
Social media analytics... it's not just to see if Facebook is working for you anymore.
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for Inc. Magazine called Reboot: Marketing. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here: