If you’ve been a reader, my guess is that you’ve been wondering why I’ve been on such a long hiatus. Well, I’ve been working a lot really close in the field of social media monitoring- selling the stuff actually. And so, I have had the opportunity to get a very clear picture on what it is that companies and brands are actually trying to do with social media.
Over the course of the year, I have spoken with decision makers at over 200 companies- mostly small – medium sized businesses ( sampling of companies that make up the majority of our North American economy) about what they’re doing with social media, what their goals are, what they’re trying to accomplish and how social media monitoring can help them.
Here are the top things I’ve seen in 2011 about where the average medium sized businesses stand when it comes to social media.
Business are 1.5 Years Behind Their Customers
While consumers are ahead of the curve, many businesses are dramatically lagging behind to understand the new insights.
This isn’t to say that businesses aren’t catching on to the fact that it’s important to listen to the conversation online. I think they know this by now and if they do not, they’re probably in trouble to be left behind. Nevertheless, people as individuals are very ahead of the curve when it comes to participation on social media and businesses too scared in their efforts to embrace new media are falling behind with every tweet unheard.
I think that the majority of this is because many business don’t know where to begin or what to do first and there are too many self proclaimed social media experts out there that have never worked in a corporation long enough to understand how businesses really think and function. The combination just makes it hard to get anything done as they can’t rely on their other or understand each other to make some decisions that will work going forward.
The basic point here is this:
No matter what you or your company is selling – your customers are out there and they are talking about you. There is a wold of data out there to help you understand how to reach and engage with these customers better, faster, more effectively and businesses are about 1.5 years on average to make that leap from the time they realize their customers are online.
No Significant Difference in Adoption Between B2B’s and B2C’s but B2B’s Care Twice As Much About Data
The interesting thing I’ve found though is that there is really no significant gap in b2b vs. b2c’s incorporating social media into their mix internally. Only on the external does it seem that social media is important more-so to b2c’s for obvious reasons but this isn’t the case as I’ve spoken with many b2b’s that are equally, if not more-so, emphasizing the importance of social media. Moreover, for some reason,
b2b’s appear twice as likely to emphasize data points on which to make social media strategic decisions.
From conversations with both b2b’s and b2c’s, I’ve found that b2b’s place much more emphasize in tactfully spending their marketing dollars where it seems like b2c’s are literally flying on a whim in many cases and relying on outside agencies to know their customers better than they do and just handle their social media for them – literally. They’ll spend hundreds of thousands just to pass off the task to have someone else be their brand essence for them at a b2c which just blows my mind. My theory is that it’s due to panic because it became much more obvious for b2c’s to make a move on social and get engaged however it’s unfortunate because sustainable growth means knowing your customers inside and out, not paying an outside firm to do it for you….
Needless to say, business are still figuring out what to do with this animal and how to incorporate it into the marketing mix and business. The key mistake I’ve found is that companies are treating it as a separate animal in the marketing mix when really its a compliment to everything a business does…which leads me to my next point.
Companies Need to Stop Treating Social As a Separate Animal & Get Holistic about Looking At Social
From my experience talking with hundreds of decision makers at hundreds of different companies, I’ve found that more than 90% of these companies STILL want to compartmentalize social media.
Newsflash: Your Customers (businesses or consumers) don’t work that way, so you need to adapt now.
The truth is, every department needs to get an understanding as to WHY listening on social media is important to them. The best way to make this happen in an organization is through stories and data to back them up. The only way to do this is with the help of technology and someone who knows how to use the technology. Certain social media monitoring technologies can sort through all the data that’s out there and provide you with insights that are relevant to all your organizations departments and business functions: HR, IT, Support, Finance, Business Development, Sales and of course Marketing, Communications, PR and so on.
My Advice? Get the data you need from a social media monitoring provider. You can work with me if you’re not sure where to start and then form a pannel from each of your departments to get together once at the beginning of the year to analyze the data and do quarterly reviews on what they’re learning. As an organization, you must work together and take a holistic approach to social media as it will interact with every department – of course some more than others but in matters of the customer – it is always better to over-understand and over-communicate what is happening with your fans and buyers internally. This over-understanding of the business across departments will be what defines or destroys your organization over time.
Last but not least, one litter disclaimer- I am by no means in this blog post calling out any specific clients or prospects I’ve worked with in the least. In Sales you of course have the opportunity to receive hundreds of No’s before you receive a Yes and so I’d like to call attention to any clients that I’ve worked with – you know who you are – because you are ahead of the game and are the outliers of this study from my working with you Thank you for the opportunity and I assure all clients and prospects that I will never give away any big hints to the companies I’m working with or without in any way.