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How to take social media from cool to critical

Web Innovation Now interview with Nate Elliott of Forrester Research, Inc. and Erick Mott of creatorbase

Is social media cool or critical in your organization? This question may resonate when you consider that most businesses have been using social media for a handful of years now and have learned a lot along the way. Experimentation and innovation are good but are your customers and company truly benefiting from social media in 2012? 

According to Forrester Research, Inc., U.S. marketers are allocating less than 10% of their interactive advertising budget for social media. Further, social media spend in the U.S. alone is expected to increase from $2 billion in 2012 to nearly $5 billion in 2016. That’s good news if you believe in the power of social collaboration and experience management strategies (we do in the Ektron Community) enabled by social media. But first, we as marketing and web leaders need to fully transition social media perception from being cool to critical before senior executives will approve budget increases. And putting social media into the right light can help with your internal negotiations and customer experience management (CXM) strategic planning efforts.


I recently met up with Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst, at the Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum 2012 in Los Angeles. We discussed in the video interview above his Interactive Brand Ecosystem research and thoughts around how to take social media from cool to critical.  Nate got my attention during his FMLF12 session when he posed this question to the audience:


What are the two biggest reasons why social media marketing fails today? Answers:  

1)     Your social media program is an island

2)     You ask social media to carry the weight of the world


Cool or Critical?

Leading brands like Best Buy, Nivea and Pepsi were early adopters with social media marketing innovation and execution – making significant investments and budget decisions before social media was mainstream. For example, the Pepsi Refresh Project included bold moves like redirecting traditional Super Bowl TV advertising spend to focus 100% on social media marketing and engagement. Pepsi reported extraordinary results in terms of community participation but, in the final analysis, were the results cool or critical for Pepsi’s customers and business? Depends on whom you ask.

One thing that struck me during Nate’s FMLF12 session and our conversation afterward is many marketers have unintentionally made social media a marketing problem vs. solution. Marketing leaders often view shinny new objects (i.e. mobile apps and social channels) as a platform to try something cool instead of using these as tools for achieving defined, meaningful business objectives rooted in customer experience management and revenue creation. We’ve all been there and, again, technology experimentation and innovation are essential for 21st century business. But let’s be cool and critical moving forward. How?


Think Customer Lifecycle and Tools Alignment in 2012

The key to making social media critical -- and to be considered cool by your peers -- is to remember that returning customers and new prospects move through these stages in their unique customer lifecycle:

  • Discover: For customers/prospects to discover your products and offers, you must create reach via a wide variety of media channels including traditional and social media. If you don’t get the word out to a large number of people in your target audience, the result is fewer people will know about and respond to your brands, products and value propositions.
  • Explore & Buy: When customers/prospects are searching for solutions to their problems, they are actively exploring to find relevant information, trusted advice from peers and branded resources, and proof points that match their criteria. This is when you must offer depth on your website and via supporting channels. Once a decision is made to buy, customers expect businesses to provide more depth to not only reassure themselves that they made the right purchase decision but to support immediate post-sale needs and opportunities.
  • Engage: To help customers engage, businesses must use interactive channels that support real-time engagement. This is where social and other messaging channels shine if properly resourced. If not resourced, social becomes just another outbound channel that won’t meet customer expectations.


Your Website is the Deepest, Most Trusted Place

Not surprising, and according to Nate in the video interview above, your website is the best place to convey the greatest depth of information about your products and services, and customers/prospects trust messages on websites more than any other form of marketing. I had a similar conversation, highlighted in this Ektron blog post, with Peter O'Neill at FMLF12 about content creation and the increased pressures on marketers to do more for customer experience management. 

Back to social media. Consider integrating social logins and profiles into your online and mobile websites to help you achieve reach, depth and engagement objectives where people learn, work, play and buy from their desktops and on-the-go. You may also find this February 2012 Forrester Research report, Using Facebook Login to Your Advantage, helpful in moving social media from cool to critical in your organization.

Follow creatorbase and Ektron teams on Twitter and share your thoughts about this post and video. 


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