5 ways to tell if your company is really ready to adopt Social Media Marketing

Social Media MarketingDoes this sound familiar? You arrive to the office on a normal, bleary-eyed Monday morning to find an email from one of your company executives. He or she has just returned from a conference where “social media” was the topic du jour. You can almost feel the excitement oozing from this individual as he or she exclaims how your company needs to start doing social media, beginning with a blog you need to ghost write for this awestruck executive.

Once you get over the shock of hearing an executive issue a mandate to do a particular marketing tactic without a solid strategy behind it, you wonder if he or she is really serious. How do you know if the company is truly committed integrating a social media marketing strategy into your overall marketing mix? Well here are some ways to tell if they are truly convinced or if they are just paying lip service to the idea in hopes they have discovered one more new and “untapped” channel through which they can talk at customers instead of with them.

Does your company use social media tools internally?

This may only apply to large corporations, but one way to tell if your company is serious about social media is if they use blogs, forums, wikis, and other collaboration tools internally. For example, do creative teams allow for new designs and ideas to be discussed or critiqued on internal forums? Do organizations cross-collaborate using wikis? These are a couple easy internal ways to test the waters of social media before diving in deep.

Does your IT department limit access to external social media tools?

I know a company—that shall remain nameless but no, it’s not Intel—that so severely restricts their employees’ access to external tools like YouTube and even Google that folks must use a password every time they access the internet. At other companies I’ve heard IT folks are allowing access for “legitimate business use” only. Yet in the age when more and more marketing goes viral, one can’t often discern between a really funny spoof and a corporate-produced video. (for a great example - see this video, a good viral video, but yet another example of a company not quite getting it since they require full registration just to learn more, as lamented by a system admin friend of mine.)

Are you looking to implement social media marketing simply to save money?

Although many social media marketing tools are often less expensive than glossy magazine ads or a 30-second Super Bowl spot, if you are looking to use social media to simply save money chances are likely your program might not be as successful as you hope. Saving money is a nice goal, but social media strategy should be dictated by business goals like minimizing returns by listening to customer product feedback or ensuring brand affinity by engaging with customers more deeply. Pick what you want to accomplish and then look for the best tool to help you meet your mark.

Do executives think social media is just about blogging?

Blogging seems to be the next hot thing just behind email marketing and SEO. Yet blogging—like the others—is merely one tool in your social media toolbox, and it may not even be the most effective one. Help your company by understanding several of the various tools out there and how they can help accomplish your unique objectives. You may skip the blog and go straight to developing an online discussion forum or community. My new motto? Think beyond the blog!

Are you being asked to quantify the ROI of your social media efforts in comparison to other marketing programs or campaigns?

Having spent the past 15 years analyzing the effectiveness of my marketing programs I’m naturally prone to this proclivity. But measuring social media effectiveness requires a new yard stick. No longer are simple page views and clickthroughs enough to know whether your campaign is successful. And because of this, it is like comparing apples to marshmallows when analyzing marketing programs side-by-side. Try instead to measure intangibles like customer engagement with metrics like repeat visits to your website or numbers of invitations forwarded by your engaged customers.

It’s ok to snicker and roll your eyes because, of course, we are all doing social media marketing correctly, right? Yeah right. Many of us still struggle to remember the most effective ways to market to our customers or talk with them. (Here is the full disclaimer that I might, on occassion, be totally guilty of doing some of these things I decry). I guess it’s nice to know we’re not alone. Many companies struggle to implement social or conversational marketing techniques without knowing exactly what they hope to accomplish. They simply figure they’re missing out on something hot if they don’t participate.