Nice posting. You are so right... this particular RFP quickly drew a line in the sand for many agencies.
When approached in a carefully-considered manner, social media is in fact proving to be a valuable new business tool. Even just through the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter:
1. You can build a relationship in a way that is “safer” for the prospect. They feel like they can get to know you before taking the relationship to the next stage.
2. You can listen and learn, before you talk. You can get to know the prospect as an individual, a much more difficult task only a year ago. You can also understand their most pressing business and marketing issues before that all-important first phone call.
3. You can reinforce your pragmatic, ROI-focused messaging (positioning) in a way that is targeted and builds quickly.
4. You can take advantage of the honeymoon period online right now. Because we’re all enjoying this digital world together in a new way, people are particularly friendly and open. This will end. We are becoming too distracted as the level irrelevant online chatter grows. Every major trend spawns a new trend that slams back in the opposite direction.
However, there is an issue: Right now, the hype of what’s possible through social media is overshadowing the reality. This came up during a number of panels and talks at our new business conference in April.
Here’s the bottom line: Each agency has a finite amount of resources dedicated to their business development practice. Each must consider the best use of those limited resources… what type of outreach will generate the fastest return? Social media is only one tool, and one ultimately dependent upon a sustained flow of relevant and insightful content; much like prospecting in general.
In our new business training, we take our clients through a set of questions to consider when articulating their social media strategy. If you like, you can view a few of these here: http://mirren.com/Blogs/20/209/
I look forward to addressing a conference this week focused on this exact topic of social media and new business. The goal: balance the hype with the reality and ultimately provide a pragmatic plan of action.
I really enjoyed this blog post, as I think it relates a lot to something other companies are having trouble with. That is—where do you draw the line between discretion and transparency?
One trait that has always been highly valued in companies large and small is discretion. That’s because there are often very prudent, honorable reasons to keep one’s mouth shut. For instance, if a company is developing a product or service that gives them a competitive advantage or if they are involved in negotiations to acquire a competitor or having an internal disagreement, it would obviously be harmful for its employees to share that information externally. Even today, the corporate sin of “talking out of school” is a serious one.
On the other hand, there is a growing desire among many consumers to see more transparency, humility and openness in government and in the corporate world. There is a general perception that a culture of secrecy has played a role in our recent, high-profile corporate and political failings. This intersection between a consumer-driven push towards more transparency and the increasing allure that companies feel towards being involved in the two-way conversation that is social media is creating some tension.
I’ve noticed this tension when the subject of social media comes up with the companies we talk to (and they are all talking about it). Most of them want to find a practical, strategic way to apply it to their business because they know that ignoring would be a mistake. They understand that it is growing platform that they need to master before their competitors do. At the same time, they realize that it is not as manageable as pushing out a one-way message through traditional media. Engaging consumers in this relatively new and unfamiliar territory opens up a door to possible risks that can initially be a little daunting. The blue-sky brainstorming of innovative ways a company can better engage their consumers through Twitter, Facebook, etc. can quickly be replaced by even more vivid images of the worst case scenario that could come in the form of a public relations nightmare or worse. Companies are struggling with where to draw the line between the discretion they value and the transparency and openness that consumers value.
The one realization that working through a process like this usually leads to is that the person or group who is ultimately tasked with implementing the social media strategy needs to intuitively understand what kinds of company info can be released in the social media world versus information that should be kept closer to the vest. And depending on the company, they may need to possess a variety of skills including marketing, public relations, customer service and of course, the nuanced etiquette of social media. That is how the issue morphs into one of staffing, because employees like that, if they exist, may already be too busy doing their regular jobs.
As a jumping off point, the following five things should be written down before creating any corporate social media strategy:
Establish up front exactly what you want to accomplish through social media and how it compliments the company’s overall brand positioning and the rest of its marketing efforts.
Outline company information that is not for sharing through social media.
Identify potential downside risks and how to address them. For example, how should we deal with negative remarks? If on Twitter, a consumer says “X” about your company, what is the appropriate response?
For consumer product or service companies, decide whether Twitter could be used as a Customer Relation Management tool.
Identify the necessary skills needed for the person who implements the social media strategy and also identify who internally or externally can perform that task.