Think of the fully realised potential of a brand in Social Media as an epic night out. Lengthy approval processes and general lack of agility are proving to be roadblocks on the journey to enjoying that night out.
Multinational corporations have built some of the world’s biggest brands over the years through large above the line budgets, rigorously defined propositions about core values, scientific claims, unique selling points and strictly controlled processes. This approach worked for a long time, but it is not well-suited to the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the social space.
In my experience, this is particularly true of the South African market, where local product teams are tightly controlled by their global motherships. Each piece of branded content must pass through several stages of approval before entering the public domain of Social Media, which leaves little room for spontaneous or tactical content. It’s a great shame, as this is the content that thrives in the social space.
Ticking Empty Boxes
Sure, many brands are ticking all the obvious boxes: they maintain a Facebook page, and maybe even a Twitter account. But more often than not, these presences are merely extensions of brand rhetoric that’s been in place since before the first season of Idols, probably.
These are the surface level issues that marketers grapple with daily, but they are symptoms of a deeper problem. What’s required is a social media revolution at the fundamental levels of business. Big business needs to become social in nature, if it wants to enjoy the real value of our exciting space in the long term.
Suzanne Little, our recently-appointed Head of Social Media at Quirk, developed a model for a social business eco-system in the form of the Social Pyramid:
Social marketing is the seeding of curated or created content on Facebook and Twitter profiles; it’s what brands are already doing. As you can see, it’s only the tip of the pyramid. Most brands are not seeing the full value in social marketing because they are not paying attention to the foundations on which it should be built.
Unpacking The Social Business Ecosystem
The top tier of the pyramid, social marketing is the use of content which attracts users to a brand’s community on a social media platform. Brand awareness and reach are the key objectives here. Social CRM, the next layer, subsequently involves cultivating and sustaining the relationship between the brand and its social media followers, and growing an active community around the brand, with the goal of building trust and brand loyalty.
This is an on-going process of listening and engaging authentically, while gleaning insights from the community. The data should then be analysed and used internally to optimise different areas of the business. This is a key point: social is so much more than a marketing channel. Just as we’ve started to integrate it across all advertising platforms, so we should be looking to use it throughout key organisational functions. HR, Sales, Product Development, Marketing, Customer Support, Management – social media has a role to play in all of them.
When you’re really listening to your customers and using their feedback to enhance your work processes and drive product innovation, you become an authentic social business founded on a customer-centric approach. This is the foundational tier of the social business pyramid, and it further fuels trust and loyalty within your social media community.
Finally, trusting and loyal customers are likely to become word of mouth advocates in real life and in the social space, marketing your business for you and aiding organic growth of your online presence. Nielsen tells us that 92% of consumers around the world trust word of mouth recommendations above all other forms of advertising. In the digital age, businesses that don’t adapt their approaches to suit the social customer will suffer. Remember that if you don’t integrate all of this into your core business functions, the social business ecosystem will break and social media will become a superficial marketing tool that tries, but ultimately fails, to create a valuable brand presence in the social media space.