This is the first in our guest blogger series. Today’s post comes from DJ Francis, Online Marketer.
Marketers know that social media is impacting their business, but no one knows exactly how much. In what ways is social media changing business, how is this new medium different, and can we measure it? Should we even try? In short, what is the worth of social media?
- Listening: Social media offers infinite market research, branding, and listening opportunities. I dare you to search for “[Your brand] sucks” and see what you find. Listening – a simple yet often over-looked aspect of human life – may be the Web 2.0 killer app and smart companies are catching on.
TNS/Cymfony found that “Revolutionaries” – companies that focused on listening rather than selling – “have a more sophisticated approach to creating strong relationships with consumers and as a result are gaining a competitive edge,” said Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Jim Nail. (Bill Green at MakeTheLogoBigger has some more great insights.)
- Responding: Social media gives marketers the chance to give quick feedback and break down unnecessary walls. Businesses are using twitter to quickly solve customer’s problems or connect straight to the CEO (try @Zappos or @ComcastCares). I have also had success reaching VIPs through LinkedIn questions – it is amazing the number of higher-ups who gladly answer queries on the site.
So how does this change business?
When I heard AOL had bought Bebo I cringed just thinking about the energetic startup in the clutches of a Web 1.0 holdover. From The Economist: “The non sequitur is to assume that the new service will be a revenue-generating business in its own right.” But the service could be amazingly valuable if marketers used it as a listening mechanism.
Second, expect customer behavior to change as social media changes from a destination to a platform. Marc Andreessen, one of the creators of Netscape and all-around Web wunderkind, said it best in an interview with ZDNet on April 25, 2008:
“It’s been this cliché in the industry that email is used by old people like you and me, and then instant messaging is used by kids. Well, it turns out instant messaging was used by kids 5 years ago…It turns out that kids – real kids – today are communicating primarily through social networks.”
Has your business changed its strategy because of this? ‘Nuff said.
In most instances, when marketers talk about measurement or ROI of social media, they are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. You can’t apply a Web 1.0 gestalt in a world where the audience cannot only respond, but can also generate more content than any single company.
Instead of measuring how well we are pushing our message onto potential customers, we should instead gauge our success on the number of conversations listened to, problems resolved, and useful suggestions received from the community of customers we already have.
One day, we may be able to get quantitative metrics on social media (the folks at Forrester Research are on the right path). While we have to settle for qualitative data right now, I believe that this will prove the best type of information in the end.
Marketers seem obsessed with assigning value to interactions on social media sites. But real success comes when you value the interaction itself.