Anyone can be social media consultant. A query on Google for “social media consultant” returned 90 million hits on December 4, 2012. The fact is that social media is a buzz word. Because people use Facebook and Twitter, these individuals can “sell” their expertise to those who do not use these and other social media services. Advertising agencies, public relations firms, and search engine optimization bureaus have been quick to jump on the social media bandwagon.
Not surprisingly, the confusion about what actions are appropriate, the methods of determining the value of social media activities, and how best to integrate social media into existing marketing activities are business questions. The definition of “social media” is variable. For some professionals, social media means a presence on Google Plus, LinkedIn, or another identity-centric service. For others, social media means Facebook friends and unknown individuals who track a specific Twitter hash tag (index term).
The challenge for an organization is to put specific social media options in a strategic context, determine what actions are warranted, and then implement specific tactical actions that help the person or the organization achieve its business objectives.
This type of old-school planning, implementing, and assessing makes some social media experts uncomfortable. In our research, we have identified four reasons for some experts reluctance to be held accountable for social media expenditures and actionable measures.
First, most social media actions go unnoticed. The blunt fact is that a tweet a week or a post on a Facebook page every two or three days is likely to have zero impact. The reason is that the volume of content in Facebook and Twitter is high. To have a meaningful impact, Facebook and Twitter posts have to be part of a larger marketing fabric. One-shots do not capture attention for most organizations. The proof of this is that “social media” generates a significant number of Google Adwords’ postings. If the so-called experts in social media could achieve their goals via Facebook and Twitter without charge, why are these specialists relying on Google to generate sales leads? The answer is that for many types of businesses, social media does not deliver leads or sales. But social media is free, easy, and can be less intellectually challenging than other types of marketing. Although true, in today’s financial environment, results matter.
Second, there are quite different types of social media. These include identity-centric services like Google Plus and LinkedIn. A “real” human participates in what amounts to an online discussion forum. The idea is that birds of a feather will exchange information about a topic. If a contribution is ill-conceived, the other people in the group can retaliate. In some cases, the damage done by careless postings far outweighs the advantages of joining the group in the first place. There are conduit services like Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Pictures and text are made available to a community of users who look for novel information, follow a topic, or just browse the flows of content. There are services which can be used to build or find relationships. Facebook was designed to allow college students to connect. Today Facebook has evolved into a personal and business service. The problem is that Facebook activities leave “digital fingerprints.” Blurring personal and professional personas can be problematic. And there are other types of social media. Each of these “types” has a different rhetoric, require specific types of semantics, and pivot on content tailored to the social media service and its particular constituents. Figuring out what to do where and when is not trivial. Random actions are simply not productive and can be “content time bombs” for some individuals and organizations.
Third, the ability to use a service often masks the complexities of a particular social service. Indexing content, timing content, and shaping content are specific knowledge tasks which must be applied to social media tactics. We have encountered one social media consulting firm which offers clients one “meaningful tweet per week.” The reason this type of solution helps this company make sales is that the prospects do not know about the inner workings of social media systems. Without knowledge, the notion of one tweet a week sounds reasonable. The reality is that the social media consulting firm is taking advantage of the lack of information about how systems work and what is needed to get a social media tactic to deliver.
Finally, we have documented what we call “a fear of measurement.” The painful reality is that measuring the effectiveness of a social media effort is difficult. Special care must be taken to create “landing pages” to which traffic can be measured. The number of followers is unreliable because it is possible to purchase bulk followers from some consulting firms. The numbers may look good, but the numbers do not translate to sales.
ArnoldIT approaches tactical social media programs in a simple, yet sophisticated manner.
First, ArnoldIT maps out a schedule and calendarizes specific actions. Particular attention is paid to the client’s existing sales and marketing programs. The social media tactics “hook” into these events. For example, if there is a trade show, then the social media program communicates key facts about special offers, where to meet executives, or how to participate in a special activity coincident with the trade show.
Second, ArnoldIT implements various yardsticks for determining if social media activities are working. In person centric systems, the measuring device is posts and participation in business-centric discussion groups. For automated social media, ArnoldIT outputs a specific flow of content on topics that tie to the company’s products and services announcements. For systems which emphasize followers, ArnoldIT indexes content so that the content appears in the groups or under categories mapped to the client’s markets. Metrics for social media, then, are a composite of data which provide a report card on which the performance of specific actions can be easily determined. If it does not work, the tactic is either revised or discontinued.
Third, ArnoldIT works closely with the client’s sales and marketing professionals to tailor the language of the social media content to the words and phrases the company uses to make sales. This type of language changes over time. ArnoldIT content, therefore, changes in step with marketplace realities. The notion of a fixed vocabulary or locked in semantics can be limiting. ArnoldIT embraces semantics and language drift.
To learn more about ArnoldIT’s social media tactical services, write firstname.lastname@example.org.