Sep 30, 2010

Social Media Strategy; It’s More Than Marketing

71% of companies in the U.S. don’t have a social media strategy, according to a recent Manpower study. The report suggests only 29% of companies in North America have a “formal policy regarding employee use of social networking sites,” and the numbers are even lower in Europe and Asia. That’s rather shocking considering how prolific social media has become.

Just look at the growth of the platforms. Facebook has over 500 million subscribers, Twitter has over 100 million registered users, and LinkedIn has over 75 million members. These social media sites have incredible adoption rates. You can bet not only are your customers are using them, but so are your employees. Companies can’t afford not to have a social media strategy.

Social media strategy goes beyond marketing

Many companies are dabbling in social media without a comprehensive strategy. They’re implementing marketing and PR campaigns on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and blogs, and many are finding early success. But social media is so much bigger than marketing. Social media touches almost every aspect of an organization, much the same way the telephone and email does. It’s a communication platform.

Social media strategy touches 3 functional areas of a business:

  • Marketing: Marketing develops brand, lead promotions and work to engage the market place.
  • Corporate Communications: Corporate communication is the next layer for internal and external communications. This includes public relations, media relations and content development and distribution.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): CRM includes all the varying customer touch points in an organization. If a customer wants to complain on Twitter, that’s a customer service issue. If a person asks for product information on Facebook, that’s a sales opportunity.

Social media specializations

Beyond the functional integration of social media in an organization, social media has 2 areas of specialization: Community Management and Crisis Management. These are distinct practices, and are often included in the social media strategy.

Community Management: Social media lends itself for organizing and creating communities. Community Management is a unique social media skill set. It requires a broader strategy, because communities can be customer service related with user-communities to marketing related with promotions or other special interests.

Crisis Management: What happens when customers complain? What happens when you have a major recall? What happens when there’s an accident? Crisis management is another unique practice, because crises can escalate very quickly in social media. A social media strategy should have contingencies in place in case an unforeseen event happens.

Integrate social media strategy into corporate strategy

Social media is not a standalone strategy. It’s not a campaign or an event. Rather it’s a distinct communication platform that should be integrated into all the touch points of your business.

It requires clear forethought, policies and procedures, metrics and accountability, and integration into all aspects of the business. Marketing is a great place to start, but don’t stop there. If you can improve internal communications with social media, embrace it. If customers can reach you via social media, embrace them. This is a golden opportunity to extend your business, and be purposeful in how you engage and communicate in your business.

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