Social state of the union

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Since President Obama gave his state of the union address last night, I thought it might be interesting to look at the social state of the union and reflect on how far we’ve come with the integration of social media into the business world and how far we still have to go.

First, the progress. Here are five positives as I see when it comes to the integration of social media into corporations and other professional organizations:

  • Social media adoption is increasing. According to eMarketer, the number of U.S. companies using social media tools for marketing purposes will increase to 80 percent in 2011. That’s up from 73 percent in 2010 and 58 percent in 2009.
  • Social media investment is going up in 2011 too according to a recent PR Week story. More than 80 percent of the 800 PR pros Econsultancy surveyed, both corporate and agency respondents, expected social media investments to rise in 2011.
  • Transition from sales funnel to customer journey. More companies are focusing on the customer instead of key messages. Or at least, they’re talking that way. One of the biggest social media differentiators is how it allows brands to build relationships with customers versus reaching out to them in mass. Both Harvard Business Review and Forbes recently ran stories on this transition away from the traditional sales funnel.
  • Crisis/issues plan integration. A crisis plan is a company’s biggest insurance policy. And we’re seeing an increase in companies — potentially out of fear of being the next Dominos or BPs of the world — integrate social media listen and respond procedures into their crisis plans. In fact, Dominos is a great example of  a company that has gone all the way from enduring an online crisis with no social media presence to changing its product based off proactive social interactions and feedback from customers.
  • Community building. Brands are doing a better job of it. Whether its inside a social network or on 3rd-party site of their own, more organizations are taking steps toward facilitating social interactions and solutions to customer needs. Think Pepsi Refresh, Dove Movement for Self Esteem, Kohls Cares, just to name a few. This is a communications crossroads where orgs are starting to see the benefits of being social without being promotional.

And now, the opportunities. Every pro usually has a con. And there are definitely some significant steps corporate America needs to take and lessons its members need to learn to truly embrace the business value social media can provide. Here are five that come to mind:

  • Stop “just doing” social media. Just do it is Nike’s thing, not your social media strategy. MarketingProfs recently shared a Harvard Review Analytics Services study that showed only 12 percent of business executives say their companies are using social media effectively. That is scary! Companies need to identify their business/communications goals and objectives like we (almost) always have, then ask whether social media is a tactic that will help achieve them.
  • Measurement. One could argue that PR and marketing have always had trouble with measurement. But social media has been a glaring proof point for the past few years. Almost 50 percent of the marketers surveyed in this piece said they can’t judge the value of their social media efforts because the jury is still out on measurement. 99 percent of “social media experts” out there do not understand measurement or how to explain the advantages social media provides that mass tactics do not. Here are a couple of points to ALWAYS remember on this topic — 1) It’s about reaching the right, targeted eyeballs…not all eyeballs, 2) ROI of social media is often long-term and hard to track (just like offline WOM has always been); talk more about impact and how the organizations’ social media efforts impact business goals.
  • Conversation, not broadcast. I feel like this topic gets overplayed, but then I see companies promoting, promoting, promoting through social media channels. This is one of the biggest problems corporations have when it comes to social media. Talk to people online as you would offline. You would not meet someone at a networking lunch, throw biz cards at them and drop a press release in their lap. STOP doing that online…please.
  • Change is slow. Many companies recognize they need to change the ways they interact with the consumer, that they need to be more integrated across departments. But actual transitions in how we do our jobs are slow, silos are strong and not enough corporate leaders are willing to take a stand that changes behavior. As Scott Burditt, CEO of Two West, told the Kansas City IABC chapter today: “I have watched company after company after company fail because they are not bold enough to change.”
  • Time investment. Companies do not understand the amount of time it takes to do social media the right way — the listening, engaging, content generation, constant networking, promoting others. There is still too much of the “it only takes five minutes to build a Facebook page” mentality. It’s easy to build a crappy social media presence. On the other hand, one that provides value and impacts business goals is much more difficult. Companies can’t ignore social media or put it in a box and let a department manage it. They need a policy, education and a culture that values relationships and customer service. And building that takes time.

So that’s the social state of the union as I see it. But it’s just one person’s point of view.

  • What’s your social state of the union?
  • How many of the points above would be in your speech?
  • What vital issues did I leave out?

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