One stand out conclusion from Gartner’s Social Marketing 2013 study is this idea that the real struggle for social marketers is finding the balance between the company’s goals and those of the customer. Executives are demanding social ROI before they’ll even fund the efforts. No one is interested in “social experiments”. CIOs are threatening security lock downs. Legal is rewriting the rules about blogging. And product managers are thinking they don’t need to wait for all the drama to play out – they’ll just go off the reservation and do some stuff on their own.
The customer needs almost seem straight forward in contrast to those organizational challenges. But social marketers continue to be obsessed with sniffing out the BIG Hairy Data problems, evaluating new technologies, and wondering how they can take advantage of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. They dig through piles of data, get confused by conflicting free advice and consume a daily diet of data with their non-fat lattes. Surprisingly, what too many are not doing is laying the solid foundations for basic survival.
In an upcoming webinar scheduled for April 25th, Gartner will present some surprising findings from the Social Marketing Study 2013. After reading through the results, I started thinking they could be summarized in The Three Basic Rules of Survival.
Rule #1 Have Plenty of Good Food
Think of your content as the life-sustaining nutrients of your social programs. As in any healthy diet, you need the basic food groups covered. Social content has to be viewed as your contribution to the conversation, not another blatant promotional shout out. So if you go spicy hot make sure that community can handle it. Future case studies will show the winners who created authentic brands really got the content game figured out in advance and were managing an innovation pipeline of ideas. All the brilliant social platform choices and perfect campaign choreography won’t matter a bit if you don’t have something interesting and worthwhile to say.
Rule #2 Reproduce
Preservation of the species requires successful courtship rituals, mating and viable births in healthy numbers. At the end of the day, commercial enterprises are about making money. So “what’s the ROI on social?” isn’t so much the question but rather does the creation of continuous, connected, and productive conversations result in leads and convert to sales? And according to the study, less than half of social marketers are exploring the links between social and commerce. The potential there is not just a lower cost of sale; it’s become, for many brands, a matter of convenience and preference for their buyers and for the company – a powerful reinforcement in multichannel and transmedia strategies.
Rule #3 Secure the Habitat
You need a hospitable place where your social strategy can thrive. Think how you’ll manage the operation – from infrastructure, business processes and policies to skills, training and social R&D. And as the rules of nature continue to teach us, sustainable ecosystems need everything in balance. Your social marketing exists side by side with mobile, the website, multichannel campaigns, display, search, etc. It works with other techniques and channels like customer support to achieve a business outcome. A purpose-built social platform will stand the tests of time and give you that terra-firma essential for the long term success of the business.
And don’t fall too far behind the herd. You could get eaten.