Defining Social Media Buy-In

A commonly discussed question relating to social media marketing is how to get buy-in from management and organizational leadership. How can we get them to take a social media effort seriously? How can we get them to allocate resources to our social media strategy?

This is not only a serious issue, but an unresolved one. Despite the amount of money thrown at social media campaigns by companies like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nike and Starbucks, I still hear stories of small, underfunded strategies where the social media manager is the only person allocated to the project, and her work is misunderstood and often maligned.

Similarly, large, traditional and well-funded marketing departments sometimes don’t know how to use social media resources effectively, so they don’t. Either they try to use the SM strategy like a traditional advertising medium, or they brush it off and sort of ignore it.

So the issue is clearly still important. The question is unresolved and numerous strategists are scrambling to find the answer. The root problem with the whole issue, though, is that nobody is asking questions that precede the one about getting buy-in. Most pointedly is this: what counts as buy-in?

Elements of Social Media Buy-in

Is it funding? If a business provides a limitless bank account for a social media strategy, does that mean they really understand that strategy? Likewise, can a business choose to be frugal when allocating resources to social media strategies and be successful?

Is it personnel? I’ve seen SM efforts for small organizations manned by a single person that were (to use Gary V’s terminology) crushing it. Likewise, I’ve seen multi-million dollar campaigns carried out by global businesses that were positively worthless.

Is it integration? There are times when the social media team needs to be left the hell alone (article on that forthcoming), but they should never be the bastard step-children of a brand’s marketing effort.

Is it understanding? When leadership tasks people to create an organizational social media strategy, do they really know what that means? Do they understand that it takes time, that it’s not like anything they’ve done before, and that it requires risk and letting go of some power?

Buy-in is all of these things, and is much more complicated than others have painted it. It’s more than showing a study that suggests the potential real ROI from each Facebook-like they get. It’s more than the number of followers on Twitter or interactions from a post or update.

Buy-in is knowing what a social media strategy entails and is being prepared to stage a long, determined and very deliberate campaign to eventually realize the potential rewards.

No infographics from the campaigns of other businesses will do that, nor will the financials from organizations killing it through Facebook and other networks. The only thing that will create buy-in is education, training and knowledge. And there are some very good books that can provide that (contact me and I’ll make some suggestions). The problem is getting the decision makers to read them.

Article first published as Defining Social Media Buy-In on Technorati.

Twitter's Simplicity = Success

Not too long ago, Jay Baer published a piece that compared Facebook to AOL. His argument was that Facebook tries to be everything to everybody, just like AOL did (he also used the metaphor of a tapeworm, which was kind of cool). He didn't really wager a prophecy about what the result will be, rather he used it as a barb, so to speak, about Facebook's attempted dominance of the social networking scene.

It's a good analogy, and one that I think holds true. But I don't think it explains why a wannabe omniscient web presence like AOL fell so far while another, far-simpler search mechanism--Google--skyrocketed to be the single most popular destination on the web.

We see this in other portals too, like Yahoo and Alta Vista, both of which were wickedly popular in the late 90's and early 2000's, but which also eventually stumbled while Google ate their lunch.

I wrote a piece a few years ago about the popularity of the Apple iPod. It was a result of a discussion that began at a usability conference. The gist is this: the fewer features an item has, the more usable it is. I used writing instruments in my analogy (I wish I'd thought of tapeworms, damn) and specifically pointed out pieces of chalk as the most usable writing instrument there is. They can be used on just about any surface, any of their sides can be used as the actual marking mechanism, and they can be used regardless of the age or dexterity of the person holding it.

Compare this to, say, a fountain pen, which is a pain in the butt to write with, is delicate and breaks easily, and frankly can be used adeptly by few people. But, the trade off is this: fountain pens are elegant and good looking, and create (in the right hands) beautiful writing. Chalk could never be used in a legal setting, even though it's easier to use (in other words, a piece of chalk can never be a fountain pen).

Twitter 3rd party app useMy argument was and still is that the iPod resembles a piece of chalk in that it really does little by itself. However, what made it usable to so many was that it relied on a variety of add-ons (either the physical type, like external speakers or consoles or the virtual, like apps) to create individualized functionality. The more add-ons or features of a product, the more limited its usability. So, if you create a simple product that allows the customer to individualize it as they see fit, you'll increase the usability and actually broaden your customer base. And in fact, that's what Twitter is trying to do--expand the verticle potential expansion through 3rd party apps (which it signaled by telling app developers to focus on apps other than clients).

So where does that leave the conversation about Facebook, and what I see as the iPod equivalent--Twitter? Simply put, Facebook is like AOL, just like Jay Bear said. It has a ton of functions that are forced on you whether you want them or not. And because it tries to be the everything to everybody, it will eventually be the nothing to anybody--except those very very late adapters comfortable with what they have and refuse change (hey, some people still use AOL).

As more 3rd party apps and functions expand its potential use (but are still options to its users) I think Twitter will eventually overtake Facebook, just like Google overtook AOL, and just like the iPod became such a dominant piece of technology: through their base simplicity but almost limitless expansion potential. In other words, when Twitter gets to the point where we can give it all of the functions of Facebook, then I think that's the point we'll see it overtake the tapeworm.

5 Ways to Integrate Social Media into your Communication Strategy

Social media use by businesses and brands doesn't have to be restricted to marketing. Twitter, Facebook and other social media can be integrated into an organization's complete external communication strategy as well (disclaimer--it's true, just about anything a business or brand does can be reduced to marketing, and I don't mean to say that any of these elements are not).

External communication strategies help organizations understand where they want to go, they build goals and create processes that make the machine of the organization run smoothly. While there are numerous communication efforts that make up a comprehensive communication strategy, here are five that can integrate social media to better reach the customers, users and consumers.

Read more ...

Word One Consulting
575-496-6807
clint @ wordoneconsulting.com
2263 S. Main
Las Cruces, NM 88005