It snowed in Atlanta this week.
To a native Atlantan, that statement deserves a line on its own. Once “Winter Weather Advisory” is heard, people flock to grocery stores to prepare for the worst. An innocent bystander unaware of how much snow was on the horizon may think that Atlanta was about to be hit with enough snow to collapse the Georgia Dome. Instead, we only got 5 inches. But again…
It snowed in Atlanta this week.
And I mention this because snow in Atlanta can be as foreign to Southerners as social media is to marketing executives with little experience online.
Grocery stores are mob scenes before it snows. People don’t know what they need or how much they need; they just know they want it. And the same can be said about social media. Many companies know about social media. They know they want to use it, but they don’t know what, or how, or why. Without a plan or a goal in mind, social media results will just fall flat.
Now that it’s 2011, more and more companies are finding the need to use social media. And yet, some still don’t know why.
My suggestion? Stop thinking about Social Media as MEDIA. It should really be called Online Interaction. Accounts are created to strengthen the communication with customers. Yet, companies are creating accounts without thinking of how to get the most benefit from it. A marketer would never say, “We need to be on TV,” without knowing what kind of ROI would justify spending that much money. Before jumping into the latest fad of Online Interaction, take a minute to map out the purpose for being online, be it to establish dialogue with those already engaged with the brand, or to provide customer service to those seeking it.
And, while trying to figure out the purpose, establish goals for what being online will accomplish. Is there a desire to have comments posted about what is posted? Will there be an opportunity to talk with the consumer in order to establish dialogue? If Web traffic is increased, what should these new visitors do on the company site that will result in a positive return for being online? Let this new online interaction be an open door to further the consumer experience.
Once the purpose and goals are set in place, share it with employees. Let employees talk about it on their own online accounts. If there is a strong purpose with clear goals in place, but poor promotion of the online existence, then results will be weak. This may sound silly, but an online interaction continuously feeds off of, just that, interaction online. And the more that fellow colleagues can develop, the better the results.
Establishing a strong presence online is an ongoing process. Companies cannot create an account and leave it, hoping that friends, followers, and fans will continue to build. This is done through a constant stream of discussion. Once that has been established on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), explore new ways to connect with the audience. The age of Social Media is only 6-7 years old, so the “right” way for a soft-drink company may not be the best way for a shoe company. By experimenting with different sites (GoWalla, Digg, Flickr, Friendstr, Groupon, etc.) the online interaction may prove even more suitable than Facebook.
Social Media isn’t new, and is always changing. But having a plan, setting goals ahead of time, and letting fellow employees participate will increase the results of social media efforts. And it won’t feel like you’re scrapping around like we do down South due to winter storm warnings.
— Jonathan Ginburg, Sr. Account Executive