If you're worried about doing social media, you're probably doing it wrong. Social media is not a goal. It's a means to achieving goals you have probably always had as a business.
WebProNews recently spoke with Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing about effectively utilizing channels that are available to you, and simply being social, rather than just doing social.
"Consumers expect more in the buying cycle," says Odden. "It's no longer a matter of just checking inventory and going, 'Ok, I'll take one.' They're searching. They're asking recommendations of friends and reading reviews, and maybe they finally buy, and maybe they share the fact that they bought with their friends."
"So customers are expecting more, but as a marketer, giving more isn't better," he says. "Being better is better - meaning a better experience. The idea is a better experience. It's not a matter of quantity. It's a matter of quality. Enhancing the customer experience and how they discover you, how they interact with you, making it easy for them to share that whole thing..."
"And then post customer marketing also," he adds. "Using social media is pretty critical I think, and a lot of folks aren't doing that. They're all focused on the top of the funnel, but they're not focused on creating relationships and community and after-the-sale kinds of engagement, which is all content that can be optimized for search."
If you're trying to find ways to use social media, perhaps you should look at the ways you're using other channels, and go from there. At least see which of these things are working, and which are not, and which of those that are can be accomplished at the same level, or probably a greater level using social channels.
"People understand things in terms of what they already know," explains Odden. "So we look at social media channels, and we go, 'Wow, that's just like other marketing channels.' So they look at it purely as marketing. One of the things I like to tell people asking about measuring ROI of social media is how do you measure ROI having a phone system in your company?"
"A communication platform is what it is, and it can accomplish many different objectives," he continues. "Social media is no different. If you have a situation where you want to use social channels to facilitate sales, then yeah, you could do that, but you can also engage customers in terms of a customer service situation or you can use it for public relations/media relations purposes."
"Anything, when you're talking about word-of-mouth, when you can use technology to facilitate word-of-mouth, that's essentially what social media is," he adds.
Businesses are constantly trying to measure the ROI of social media, but the ROI will come from the products that being social brings your business - not necessarily just from the social channel itself.
"As more companies shift from doing social to being social, we'll see a lot more ROI," says Odden. "We'll actually see a lot more business outcomes achieved vs. folks just counting fans/friends/followers and so forth."
Odden talked a bit about some things companies are missing the mark on - mistake that are being made. "Not listening, not paying attention, not monitoring brand terms, not monitoring for what employees are doing that sort of thing. Certainly not monitoring for customer service issues. Those are all opportunities."
"IBM had a case study in eMarketer that cited they are uncovering millions of dollars in leads simply by having volunteers they call seekers that are using clever search queries on social sites, looking for people talking about their products or even competitors, and then jumping in and engaging in conversation. I think that's low-hanging fruit really...just the notion of listening."
"Through that listening, you can identify where people are talking about stuff that's important to your buying cycle..that's important to your prospects that you're looking for," says Odden.
"I think another no-no is the notion of fragmented or disconnected or siloed social media efforts within a company," he adds. "This is more common in a large company where let's say marketing goes and starts a blog, and they start a Facebook Page. Then Public Relations goes and starts one too, and they never talk to each other."
"It's confusing in that one brand interaction is a particular way," he continues. "Or when fans create a social destination about a brand and the brand doesn't recognize that or participate. Especially if they go in and go, 'look, you're not official, so we're going to shut you down.' No. No. No. Why would you do that? Be like Coke and go, 'Wow, you guys are doing a fantastic job. Rock on. Here's more resources for you to keep doing what you're doing.'"
There's nothing social about treating your fans like crap. If anything, that's antisocial.