A Social Media Gut Check

There have been a few rumblings lately about the honeymoon being over in social media, and lots of discussion about the right way to frame social media efforts, how to find someone to help you with your social media plan, or some of the expectations you need to have going in .

2009 is going to be the year (or at least the start) of getting our hands dirty with all this stuff. That includes taking a hard look at how prepared you really are to take this on, and what elements of your business might need closer examination before you rush headlong into building the next great Facebook app for your product.

Here are a few questions I think we need to be asking.

Why is social media of interest to us?

I’m not the first one to address this, as many people have rightly stated that implementing social media simply because it’s “what everyone is doing” is the backwards approach. It says nothing about why YOUR business ought to be doing it. And that’s the only reason that matters. Likewise if your answer is something like “our current marketing isn’t working” or “we need to try something different”, you’d better get back to the drawing board.

What obstacles do we see in front of us related to social media?

Be honest. You’re afraid of negative feedback. You’re not sure you can commit the resources to blog. You don’t quite know whether or not your customers are really going to be active in an online community. These are *critical* issues to address, because they aren’t going to magically go away once you start.

Do we communicate well internally?

When social media works, it touches a lot of different aspects of business. It crosses over from communications to sales to customer service to product development and R&D to the executive suites. If you can’t communicate clearly inside your own company about what you learn and absorb through social media, your ability to follow through and complete the entire cycle of communication (to customer, back to company, and out again) will inevitably break down.

Who is leading the charge?

Someone has to manage your social media efforts, ideally a cross-disciplinary team that represents diverse areas of the business. Who is that? Are they passionate, or just getting assigned? Will this be a priority for them or a nuisance?

What are our expectations as the social media advocates? Are those expectations the same with our peers, colleagues, and mangement?

You’d better all be on the same page about what you want from your social media exploits. If management is only focused on sales but you’re concentrating on loyalty or brand awareness, you need to get in a room and discuss all of this. Not every business endeavor can do everything well. What are you expecting social media to do?

Are we willing to spend money on this?

Social media is not free. You need time and money. 2-5% of your marketing budget on average, more if you need to develop specific tools or applications to accomplish your goals.

What happens if we stumble?

Before you start, you must understand how you’ll deal with adversity when it happens. If risk tolerance is low, an important discussion to have is how social media is as much a mechanism for education and insight as it is hardline numbers. Is that an acceptable risk?

What happens if we succeed?

If your customers love what you’re doing, do you have a plan in place to meet their increased standards of customer service? Is what you’re planning sustainable with the resources you have, and if not, how are you going to scale them? Are you prepared for the spotlight?

What will we do with what we learn?

It’s not just about putting it out there. It’s about absorbing what you learn, turning around, and using that information to better your business somehow (even if it’s in small, incremental ways). Don’t ignore this step. Your customers are expecting that if they’re going to talk to you, you’re going to listen.

This is the start to my list, and I’m going to take a harder look at some of these areas in turn through the Social Media Blueprint project.

But what questions are you asking? Which ones are you particularly struggling with?

Photo credit: -bast-

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  • http://MatchesMalone.wordpress.com/ Matches Malone

    So, should a company hire someone from the outside that ‘gets it!’ or more likely, will they fail, and attempt to create a social media maven from within?

    Matches Malones last blog post..Don’t tell me how to Twitter!!!

  • http://MatchesMalone.wordpress.com/ Matches Malone

    So, should a company hire someone from the outside that ‘gets it!’ or more likely, will they fail, and attempt to create a social media maven from within?

    Matches Malones last blog post..Don’t tell me how to Twitter!!!

  • Amber Naslund

    @Matches that question is unique to the company. I’m all about having a company bring someone in to help them get started, but I’m also adamant that it has to be a “teach the business to fish” philosophy. That outside person has to be like training wheels. There to get them off and running and teach them the ropes, then get the hell out of the way.

    Ideally and eventually, you *must* have internal voices and advocates that are passionate about using social media instruments to better connect with customers. If they’re not on that train, they’re not going to succeed.

  • http://www.dailyaxioms.com Tim Otis

    Definitely struggling with the “time for blogging” issue. We have some in-house personalities who I’m in charge of, uploading their posts on a women-centric traveler’s blog. Sometimes they get too busy and I’ve been advised to ghost-write. Sorry, nothing doing– because I don’t encompass their brand identity so why fake it?

    Also, it’s hard to get everyone cohesive on the fact that there is no one-size fits all approach. Work on one thing, do it well.

    Thanks, Amber.

    Tim Otiss last blog post..How Many People Actually Use Twitter?

  • http://www.dailyaxioms.com Tim Otis

    Definitely struggling with the “time for blogging” issue. We have some in-house personalities who I’m in charge of, uploading their posts on a women-centric traveler’s blog. Sometimes they get too busy and I’ve been advised to ghost-write. Sorry, nothing doing– because I don’t encompass their brand identity so why fake it?

    Also, it’s hard to get everyone cohesive on the fact that there is no one-size fits all approach. Work on one thing, do it well.

    Thanks, Amber.

    Tim Otiss last blog post..How Many People Actually Use Twitter?

  • http://www.madhousecreative.com Scott Davis

    Great little article Amber,
    Appreciate the comment “are we willing to spend money on this”, clients are happy to state “I like this form of communication cause it’s free”. Always amazes me how much time and effort sometimes clients will put into their own marketing efforts, and home grown design. If they only added up their own personal time, use of the ink in their bubble jet printer and time figuring out what they are doing and doing it again and again. Compare this to having a professional create it correctly the first time because they realize that yes they are willing to spend the money, and in the end get a great ROI.

  • http://www.madhousecreative.com Scott Davis

    Great little article Amber,
    Appreciate the comment “are we willing to spend money on this”, clients are happy to state “I like this form of communication cause it’s free”. Always amazes me how much time and effort sometimes clients will put into their own marketing efforts, and home grown design. If they only added up their own personal time, use of the ink in their bubble jet printer and time figuring out what they are doing and doing it again and again. Compare this to having a professional create it correctly the first time because they realize that yes they are willing to spend the money, and in the end get a great ROI.

  • http://StopPoliticalCalls.org Shaun Dakin

    What happens if we succeed? and What will we do with what we learn? are spot on.

    Great post.

    Shaun Dakin
    CEO – The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
    @EndTheRobocalls
    @IsCool

  • http://StopPoliticalCalls.org Shaun Dakin

    What happens if we succeed? and What will we do with what we learn? are spot on.

    Great post.

    Shaun Dakin
    CEO – The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
    @EndTheRobocalls
    @IsCool

  • http://www.bizcoachdeb.com/blog Deb Kolaras

    Free doesn’t mean cheap and cheap doesn’t always mean easy. Thank you for putting a value on it all the way around. Let’s hope companies are reading. @bizcoachdeb

    Deb Kolarass last blog post..Shoestringin’ Your Business in ‘09

  • http://www.bizcoachdeb.com/blog Deb Kolaras

    Free doesn’t mean cheap and cheap doesn’t always mean easy. Thank you for putting a value on it all the way around. Let’s hope companies are reading. @bizcoachdeb

    Deb Kolarass last blog post..Shoestringin’ Your Business in ‘09

  • Pingback: » Blog Archive » A Social Media Gut Check

  • http://everydotconnects.com Connie Reece

    I’m so with you on the “teach them to fish” – “training wheels” approach. That will be the primary focus of my social media consulting this year: education. I tell clients my goal is to work myself out of a job with them. Great writing/thinking, Amber.

    Connie Reeces last blog post..Podcast: Connie and Sheila talk social media

  • http://everydotconnects.com Connie Reece

    I’m so with you on the “teach them to fish” – “training wheels” approach. That will be the primary focus of my social media consulting this year: education. I tell clients my goal is to work myself out of a job with them. Great writing/thinking, Amber.

    Connie Reeces last blog post..Podcast: Connie and Sheila talk social media

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com olivier blanchard

    I am really starting to get concerned that with all this talk of SocMed, many people out there are losing track of its actual value: Creating and growing relationships.

    The point is really to help people connect better. From a personal standpoint, it’s about the exchange of ideas opinions and information. It’s about helping people find each other and stay connected. From a business standpoint, the idea is to re-humanize relations between companies and the public at large in such a way that everyone involved benefits (customers gain more value from their relationship with a company – better info, faster service, friendlier touchpoints, etc. – and companies have the opportunity to reach more customers and give them reasons to develop a stronger sense of loyalty, for starters).

    The thing about it is, Social Media isn’t about Social Media at all… Yet we seem to be talking more about social media than about what people and companies are actually doing in that space. It’s kind of like talking about a new camera’s technical specs but never actually looking at the incredible pictures it can produce.

    We’re so focused on putting SocMed on some sort of pedestal that MANY folks are getting distracted from what this is all really about.

    That being said, it’s a lot easier for someone to walk into a client’s office and say: “Hey, Here’s a ten-step process to get you guys into the Social Media space” than it is to say “forget about social media for a second, and let’s talk about what kind of relationship you want to have with your customers and why.” The latter is where we need to be. The first, however, is where many people seem to be going. That worries me a bit.

    Thoughts?

    olivier blanchards last blog post..Discovered on Twitter… (Week 2)

  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com olivier blanchard

    I am really starting to get concerned that with all this talk of SocMed, many people out there are losing track of its actual value: Creating and growing relationships.

    The point is really to help people connect better. From a personal standpoint, it’s about the exchange of ideas opinions and information. It’s about helping people find each other and stay connected. From a business standpoint, the idea is to re-humanize relations between companies and the public at large in such a way that everyone involved benefits (customers gain more value from their relationship with a company – better info, faster service, friendlier touchpoints, etc. – and companies have the opportunity to reach more customers and give them reasons to develop a stronger sense of loyalty, for starters).

    The thing about it is, Social Media isn’t about Social Media at all… Yet we seem to be talking more about social media than about what people and companies are actually doing in that space. It’s kind of like talking about a new camera’s technical specs but never actually looking at the incredible pictures it can produce.

    We’re so focused on putting SocMed on some sort of pedestal that MANY folks are getting distracted from what this is all really about.

    That being said, it’s a lot easier for someone to walk into a client’s office and say: “Hey, Here’s a ten-step process to get you guys into the Social Media space” than it is to say “forget about social media for a second, and let’s talk about what kind of relationship you want to have with your customers and why.” The latter is where we need to be. The first, however, is where many people seem to be going. That worries me a bit.

    Thoughts?

    olivier blanchards last blog post..Discovered on Twitter… (Week 2)

  • http://www.bourkepr.com Kevin Bourke

    Thanks for these thoughts. The one item that struck me; “social media is not free,” it requires “2-5% of your marketing budget.” Can you elaborate on that piece of it? Love to know your specific thoughts on that. Thanks again!

  • http://www.bourkepr.com Kevin Bourke

    Thanks for these thoughts. The one item that struck me; “social media is not free,” it requires “2-5% of your marketing budget.” Can you elaborate on that piece of it? Love to know your specific thoughts on that. Thanks again!

  • http://recruitingindustrybrandingandsourcing.blogspot.com/ David Benjamin

    Do we communicate well internally? I don’t think enough companies examine this issue.

    It all starts with building relationships, not only between consumer and seller but also internally. There has to be a shared vision, and shared throughout the entire organization.

    David Benjamins last blog post..Utilizing Video

  • http://recruitingindustrybrandingandsourcing.blogspot.com/ David Benjamin

    Do we communicate well internally? I don’t think enough companies examine this issue.

    It all starts with building relationships, not only between consumer and seller but also internally. There has to be a shared vision, and shared throughout the entire organization.

    David Benjamins last blog post..Utilizing Video

  • http://bonitamedia.wordpress.com Jon McLeod

    Amber,
    2 days of reading your blog, and 2 days of great thoughts! Here are some observations and some very pertinent quotes from two great movies ;)

    First – Corporate America realized when Compuserve and other IM programs came into existence that time would be wasted, ergo – loss of productivity. Out of this (and other internet phenomena) came IT Security business models and protocol. Now, with SM advancing the way it is, businesses are seeing this as a way to remove the impersonal, sterile, almost robotic interaction with clients, allowing transparency and trust to build. Personally, I think SM has a long way to grow and like any new industry there will be growing pains and differing opinions…

    You make a great point in “why SM”? “Without WHY there is no being, there is no purpose” (D’Merill Vengian from Matrix Reloaded)

    As far ass compensation goes… “If you’re good at some, NEVER do it for free.” (The Joker/Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight)

    Thanks again for frying my brain after lunch!

    Jon

    Jon McLeods last blog post..4 levels of competency

  • http://bonitamedia.wordpress.com Jon McLeod

    Amber,
    2 days of reading your blog, and 2 days of great thoughts! Here are some observations and some very pertinent quotes from two great movies ;)

    First – Corporate America realized when Compuserve and other IM programs came into existence that time would be wasted, ergo – loss of productivity. Out of this (and other internet phenomena) came IT Security business models and protocol. Now, with SM advancing the way it is, businesses are seeing this as a way to remove the impersonal, sterile, almost robotic interaction with clients, allowing transparency and trust to build. Personally, I think SM has a long way to grow and like any new industry there will be growing pains and differing opinions…

    You make a great point in “why SM”? “Without WHY there is no being, there is no purpose” (D’Merill Vengian from Matrix Reloaded)

    As far ass compensation goes… “If you’re good at some, NEVER do it for free.” (The Joker/Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight)

    Thanks again for frying my brain after lunch!

    Jon

    Jon McLeods last blog post..4 levels of competency

  • http://www.mindfrenzy.com Jared O’Toole

    I think one of the toughest challenges is how to have an overall company attitude and image to portray through social media. However social media is very personal and each employee will have their own thoughts and personalities (which should be encouraged).

    It’s a challenge to get employees to be transparent while at the same time relay the overall ideas of the company.

    Jared O’Tooles last blog post..Getting Out of that Comfort Zone

  • http://www.mindfrenzy.com Jared O’Toole

    I think one of the toughest challenges is how to have an overall company attitude and image to portray through social media. However social media is very personal and each employee will have their own thoughts and personalities (which should be encouraged).

    It’s a challenge to get employees to be transparent while at the same time relay the overall ideas of the company.

    Jared O’Tooles last blog post..Getting Out of that Comfort Zone

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  • http://from.simontsmall.com Simon T Small

    A friend of mine is in the final stages of firming a contract to become the Social Media Mentor for an advertising agency.

    This, in my mind, is the perfect solution, education, practice and someone to talk to internally will drive organisational change.

    Social media can be used for many marketing outcomes, and everyone needs to be part of the solution.

    Simon T Smalls last blog post..Social Media Specialists are Public Relations Consultants 2.0

  • http://from.simontsmall.com Simon T Small

    A friend of mine is in the final stages of firming a contract to become the Social Media Mentor for an advertising agency.

    This, in my mind, is the perfect solution, education, practice and someone to talk to internally will drive organisational change.

    Social media can be used for many marketing outcomes, and everyone needs to be part of the solution.

    Simon T Smalls last blog post..Social Media Specialists are Public Relations Consultants 2.0

  • Pingback: A Social Media Gut Check | Altitude Branding | thesocialmediasecrets

  • http://lifeinmarketing.blogspot.com Anna Barcelos

    Hi Amber! I noticed this in one of your links and immediately could relate it to my own company. In “25 Signs You’ve Got a Strong SM Consultant or Agency” #24 by Jeff Jaffee (“Understands that social media is more than just creating and delivering content or regurgitating existing promotional copy” Joseph Jaffe).

    Sanity check: Isn’t the whole point of social media to create a brand that keeps it real? How is it that some companies are hiring writers for their blog posts and Tweets. Does this work? I feel customers are very smart and will read right through that. But companies are doing it anyway!

    Feedback on this would be helplful!

    Anna Barceloss last blog post..10 Things About Me

  • http://lifeinmarketing.blogspot.com Anna Barcelos

    Hi Amber! I noticed this in one of your links and immediately could relate it to my own company. In “25 Signs You’ve Got a Strong SM Consultant or Agency” #24 by Jeff Jaffee (“Understands that social media is more than just creating and delivering content or regurgitating existing promotional copy” Joseph Jaffe).

    Sanity check: Isn’t the whole point of social media to create a brand that keeps it real? How is it that some companies are hiring writers for their blog posts and Tweets. Does this work? I feel customers are very smart and will read right through that. But companies are doing it anyway!

    Feedback on this would be helplful!

    Anna Barceloss last blog post..10 Things About Me

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  • http://www.shainemata.net Shaine Mata

    It seems like companies that already have an established brand would be the ones doing the gut check. You would think that maybe social media COULD have some value in expanding the brand, but aren’t sure. After all, you do not want to go and undo what has taken a long time to achieve. If you are going to do it, you are going to do it right. But what’s the right way?

    For organizations that have nothing but an upside when it comes to branding, meaning that they haven’t a well known brand, a gut check would probably not even cross their mind. Social media is free to use in the sense that little capital is invested in it. Many small companies have more time than money to invest in social media.

    If you are an established company, the first hurdle is, “why fix it if it ain’t broke?” That’s the gut check. They have to recognize and accept that they may be losing out on something by not participating in social media. Once this is recognized, it then simply becomes a question of how to do it, as explained in your post.

    You make great points.

    Shaine

    Shaine Matas last blog post..Listening to Your Inner Voice

  • http://www.shainemata.net Shaine Mata

    It seems like companies that already have an established brand would be the ones doing the gut check. You would think that maybe social media COULD have some value in expanding the brand, but aren’t sure. After all, you do not want to go and undo what has taken a long time to achieve. If you are going to do it, you are going to do it right. But what’s the right way?

    For organizations that have nothing but an upside when it comes to branding, meaning that they haven’t a well known brand, a gut check would probably not even cross their mind. Social media is free to use in the sense that little capital is invested in it. Many small companies have more time than money to invest in social media.

    If you are an established company, the first hurdle is, “why fix it if it ain’t broke?” That’s the gut check. They have to recognize and accept that they may be losing out on something by not participating in social media. Once this is recognized, it then simply becomes a question of how to do it, as explained in your post.

    You make great points.

    Shaine

    Shaine Matas last blog post..Listening to Your Inner Voice

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