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Those two words in the headline either made you sit up and pay attention or bury your face in your hands (not social media again!).

Well, whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay.

It’s a subject that’s getting a lot of coverage at the moment and we have decided to cover it once more following a study that was published recently by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) – the world’s largest organisation for professional marketers.

The study – Social Media Benchmark: Wave One Report – How businesses are adapting to, investing in and drawing value from social media – is the first of what will be a six-monthly study created to be “…the definitive guide to the changing role and potential of social media in business”.

Conducted over a four-week period among 1295 marketers (64% UK based), it targeted a wide range of seniority as well as a balanced mix across national, multinational and global companies.

We have quoted and commented on interesting elements of the report below.

WHO’S USING WHAT?

Of the businesses surveyed 71% were active on Twitter, 56% on Facebook, 53% on LinkedIn and 41% on YouTube. This can be seen as meaning that at over 50% (mostly), adoption of these social media channels is well on its way to being mainstream; it also begs the question why such a large percentage is staying away.

On this second point, the report suggests possible reasons include fear of the unknown, perceived lack of relevance and a poor understanding of how to use the particular platforms.

POSTING CONTENT

“Social media is a 24/7 investment – it requires a level of continuous attention and engagement that doesn’t typically accompany traditional media.”

While this is a fundamental truth when it comes to social media content, it is vital to post compelling and engaging content or you risk minimising or undermining the value. Don’t say something if there’s nothing to say.

WHY ARE MARKETERS USING SOCIAL MEDIA?

“These channels aren’t exactly new, yet the rationale for using them is surprisingly opaque. Just doing things because you feel you ought to or because you thought you’d test them out won’t cut it, particularly when you consider the extent of cuts to marketing budgets this year.”

The statistics of why marketers use social media points to a lack of strategy in 2011, highlighting a priority for 2012. 28% of those surveyed were ‘just experimenting’ against 27% using social media as a core part of their campaign. 18% were using social media because their ‘customers used it’ while the remainder ranged from ‘it’s expected’ to ‘don’t know’ and ‘our competitors do’.

One comment in the study suggests that there’s nothing wrong with experimenting, provided there are clear reasons for doing so.

It’s this point that really matters – there is no point doing something for your business (in marketing or otherwise) without a clear objective.

“There’s a desperate need to go back to marketing basics – what are your objectives? How exactly do you want to influence consumers? Couple this with learning exactly how the medium works and how to engage with it. Only then can you hope to truly understand how social media can help your business grow.”

WHO OWNS SOCIAL MEDIA AND HOW IT’S MANAGED

The study found that relatively few organisations have someone tasked to manage social media specifically, whether a full-time social media manager or outsourced to a third party.

If this is to be a core element of marketing and promotional strategy, one that requires constant, calculated feeding, it’s hard to see how it can be managed effectively without someone being directly responsible for it.

Leona Shepherd, corporate marketing director for 3M UK, says in the report that the responsibility should lie with someone who has a passion for using the tool in business – not just the tool for its own sake.

“It’s too easy for businesses to get someone to champion it who lives and breathes social media, but is lost at sea when it comes to working out how it can further your cause…”

29% of those surveyed had a ‘social media champion’; 28% were ‘undefined or inconsistent from campaign to campaign’; 23% had the task ‘distributed across the marketing team’; 10% tasked it to a digital media manager/team; only 5% outsourced to an agency or third party; 4% had a dedicated social media manager.

“It’s encouraging to see that the marketing function is coordinating social media activity in the majority of businesses, but this still leaves a risk: social media isn’t something any one team can ‘own’. Education and internal communication therefore become crucial.”

HOW IS SOCIAL MEDIA BEING MEASURED?

“One of the much-praised benefits of social media channels – and indeed digital in general – is their innate measurability. The tools, many of which are free, provide sophisticated insight for companies of all sizes to get a pulse check. But we found a worrying number of organisations failing to take advantage of this rich suite of analytics.”

Measurement of your digital presence is absolutely critical. Google analytics is free (just need to have it coded into your website, if it isn’t already) and will tell you many statistics and details about the visitors to your site. Equally, there are many social media management tools that also provide reporting of social media engagement and influence along with simple statistics like number of new followers.

To not be using digital analytics is pretty much unforgiveable in this day and age. It’s equivalent to going to a boat show without a lead book. Once you have the information and know how to interpret it, you can take action and begin learning how to leverage this into hard leads and sales.

“While it can be fascinating to get stuck into all the KPIs that reveal successes, what really matters is the big picture. Focus only on measuring what you need to find out, if social media is helping you connect with your customers in a relevant way – a way that demonstrably encourages them to do business with you.”

ARE THE RIGHT SKILLS IN PLACE TO GET THE JOB DONE?

“It’s of significant concern that half of businesses acknowledge a fundamental lack of capability around social media, or that their skills are below their industry peers. In times of economic uncertainty, will these businesses have the time and resources to rectify this?

…The gap between businesses that perform well on social media and those that don’t will widen dramatically in 2012 and if companies fail to invest in the skills, time and training necessary, they will find themselves left even further behind in a medium that they themselves admit is here to stay.”

It’s not a big stretch to figure out how to use, then gain value from, social media tools (and you don’t have to use them all) – it just takes a bit of time. There are dozens of websites with how-to guides and many entry-level books on how to use social media for business. If self-teaching isn’t for you (or you simply don’t have the time) there are some short courses in digital marketing that will help get you or your team started.

Australian College of Marketing principle Emma Blackburn said the CIM had introduced an online course specifically for digital marketing as the demand was high.

“The CIM’s Diploma in Digital Marketing was developed in response to a shortage of qualified personnel in this rapidly expanding area, and draws upon best-practice from around the world. It not only teaches you the theory and strategic models you’ll need to develop and measure digital campaigns, it also provides the opportunity to put the theory into practice within your own organisation.”

WHAT DOES SENIOR MANAGEMENT MAKE OF IT?

“With just a quarter of marketers reporting that their senior management fully understands why they are using social media, that leaves the vast majority in a vulnerable situation. A quarter of marketers say that those at the top don’t get it at all…

…A quick and simple win is for marketers to get their senior management personally using these social media platforms. Don’t waste time the mechanics of social media, what they understand is connecting with customers. So the responsibility for marketers is to articulate the vision, strategy, metrics and insight that social media can provide.”

WHERE TO FROM HERE…

“Should your organisation be using social media? Absolutely. But only if your presence is supported by a clear strategy, investment and commitment. It’s not enough to throw something out there for the sake of it. If you put nothing in, you’ll get nothing out and you may even do damage. But if you use it with foresight and planning, the payback can be huge.”

The key message that came of this recent CIM report is that if you’re using social media – use it to its full potential.

There’s no point doing anything in life half-heartedly, so this also means tracking your results and adapting your approach accordingly – as and when required, no matter how often that may be.

The full CIM social media benchmark report can be bought at smbenchmark.com (free for CIM members).


Sandman Public Relations is a full-service media consultancy specialising in the marine industry.

sandmanpr.com.au

REPUTATIONAL RISKS

Recent social media wrong-turns have shown how a misstep can lead to PR chaos. Qantas and McDonalds both recently got it badly wrong by trying to engage with their communities in what they thought was a positive and fun way. Hijacked hash-tags and an ensuing deluge of negative and abusive tweets resulted in both brands having to do a u-turn on what was a considered a winning idea. This went on for some days and touched millions of social media users.

Don’t despair. While risk is evident, that’s not to say you should not enter the fray in social media; managing media risk is part of a businesses everyday life, especially in the world of Web 2.0+.

As with any message or campaign, consider it carefully before proceeding and plan ahead. Be aware of possible outcomes, opinions, competitors, etc.

If something does go wrong it’s not really much different to managing a dissatisfied customer (except possibly on a larger scale and in the public eye if you’re the size of Qantas) – be transparent and honest. Social media is about relationships – it’s ok to admit mistakes, apologise and move on.

RESOURCES

SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITES
www.socialmediaexaminer.com
www.socialmediatoday.com
www.chrisbrogan.com

DIGITAL MARKETING TRAINING
CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing
“The course is totally online and covers all the digital marketing tools (SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing, online advertising, online PR and social media); how to create a digital campaign; how to measure a digital campaign (web analytics, conversion funnels, bounces rates, KPIs).
 
 “We are also ensuring it has an Australian angle with lots of recorded guest speakers with real company case studies.” Emma Blackburn – Principle, Australian College of Marketing.
www.australiancollegeormarketing.com.au
The Australian College of Marketing is the sole provider of CIM training in Australia.

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