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China, digital, Digital Strategy, Econsultancy, Edelman Trust Barometer 2012, engagement, Facebook, India, Internet access, LinkedIn, marketing, Mobile, Open Graph, personalisation, ROI, social media, technology, Twitter, youtube

Getting the most out of social media

Looking at the social media landscape it’s plain to see that social media has exploded and is ever-expanding. New sites and tools are popping up every week and more people are on social networks sites than ever before. Social networking is now the most popular activity online and social networking is growing in every single country. Social networks now reach 1.2bn people around the world. Given there’s 7bn in the world, that’s 1 in 7 using social networking sites.

Facebook is predicted to hit 1bn users by August of this year. If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest country in the world – just behind China and India. And the rate it’s going it will soon overtake India’s population of 1.2 bn.

Facebook’s plan is that soon you will never have to leave Facebook to do all your social media activity by bringing more and more apps and social media technologies onto Facebook via its Timeline and Open Graph.

Clearly social media is no longer a fad. It is increasingly becoming a CEO-level topic and many high-profile CEOs have already joined social media and are engaging directly with their customers. Indeed a study by Global Marketing showed that the majority of companies interviewed plan to use social media as their MAIN communication tool within the next one to five years.

There is a huge amount of potential in how social media can be used within organisations. But we are still making lots of mistakes in how we use it. I want to look at some of the lessons we can learn from how we have used social media and how we might improve on this.

Lesson One –we are still not getting the basics right
The largest number of complaints on Twitter are about poor customer experience and service. We are still not getting the basics right before we embark on social media projects. There is no point attracting people to you if your site is not up to scratch and they cannot find the information they need when they come to you. We need to ensure we have targeted, personalised content, good search facilities and good navigation in order to meet our customers’ expectations.

Lesson Two – we are not offering a multi-channel experience to our audiences
Research by Econsultancy shows that if you treat your customers consistently well across all channels they will increase their trust and loyalty to you. While 90% of organisations want to move in that direction and see it as very or quite important, only 2% of organisations think they offer their customers a very good multi-channel experience.

Obviously mobile is huge so we need to start thinking ‘mobile first’ when adopting social technologies. In 2011 there were 5.2bn signed up customers for mobile phones. Nothing is as broadly spread as mobile – not even tooth brushes (only 4.2bn people use tooth brushes!)

And mobile is set to become the primary Web access platform in many emerging markets. Use of the mobile Web is set to overtake fixed-line Internet in India by the end of the year. So we need to make sure our social media strategies are closely tied to mobile.

Lesson Three – we are not setting ourselves clear goals
The problem for many of us is that we do not know where we trying to get to when we start a social media project. We do not know what success looks like. Using social media is all about touching people in the right way, at the right time, with the right content, on the right channel.  But in order to get this right, you have to know your audience. We need to establish first how we want our relationship with our audiences to change and be clear about what problem we are trying to solve.

Most social media projects fail because they have not established a clear strategy. A clear strategy addresses your objectives and goals, who your audiences are and what messages you need to get across to them, who are their influencers, what platform and tool you will use, what measurements you will use and what policy and procedures will you have in place.

Lesson Four – ROI only means Return on Ignorance!
While budgets are increasing year on year for social media, we are still not very good at measuring its value and Return on Investment. Surveys show that nearly 50% of companies are not able to measure the value gained from their investment in social media.

We need to start listening and monitoring more.  But we also need to define our listening criteria. What are the topics we want to listen out for? Who do we want to listen to? What keywords are important to us? There are many tools that can help us listen to what is being said online – both free and paid for. Social Mention is a very good free one and Radion 6 has just been listed as top paid for listening product.

Social media allows us to track our impact if we know what we are trying to measure.  Again this comes back to having a clear view of what success looks like. Without clear goals we will only ever have a Return on Ignorance!

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2012 trust in social media has increased by 75%. The social web and mobile technologies have accelerated the rate at which relationships develop, information is shared and influence takes hold. The companies that will be successful in the future recognise the need to fundamentally change the way they engage with their customers.

Going forward  we need to improve our customer service; we need to develop multichannel strategies and start thinking ‘mobile first’; we need to know where we are going and know what success looks like; we need to get better at monitoring and listening and we need to measure ROI against our goals.

And always remember that it is not the smartest or cleverest that will survive in the social media space – it will be those organisations that are most open to change. You can afford to have a certain amount of trial and error in this area. The key thing is to try it and see but learn quickly and move on.

This article was first published by Sitecore – www.sitecore.net. It is taken from a speech I gave at the ALGIM conference in May.

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About Theresa Clifford

I am a senior manager/digital consultant with international agency experience in leading the delivery of holistic customer-centric strategies and digital programmes. I am also a Tutor/Presenter in Digital Marketing for the Marketing Association and a regular writer and speaker on digital trends. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your digital requirements, please feel free to contact me. (e) mstheresaclifford@hotmail (m) +64 21 026 17779

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