Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So you've been told to 'Do something' with social media, but nobody can say exactly what?

Social media is still a brand new arena for many companies. Some are just figuring out that having a Facebook account and maybe even a Twitter account is a good thing. And if these tools are new to you, trying to get a grasp on what more there is to do with social media can be an overwhelming task. Have no fear though. Here are four different things you can do;

1)Public Relations: Social media is a great tool for communicating with the general public but only if it is part of an imtegrated strategic communications plan - you need to understand stakeholder theory and you need to understand what a PIG is - go look up Menedlow.

Your Facebook page and your Twitter account let you have one to one conversations with people about your brand and products, but it has to be done in a way that builds engagement and interests them - it isn't the equivalent of a coporate market stall!

Consumers – people – have fun reading postings, liking posts, and getting to learn more about who you are as a brand. And, anyone can quickly and easily jump on this wagon. This is the most popular use for social media - just go and check out Alexandre Orlov and for a slautory lesson in using social media this way.


2) Customer Relationship Management: Companies that are a little more savvy can build on their PR initiatives with this component. Tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used not just for general communications, but to respond to consumer questions and solve consumer problems. It’s easy enough for people to send a Facebook message or Tweet to you asking specific questions. If you’re ready to respond to them, with speed and friendliness, then this could be right for you. Companies like Dell and Comcast have Twitter accounts set up just for this and people take full advantage of them. this requires you to have the staff with the time and expertise to provide this sort of service - again it really requires a strategy towards what you expect social media is going to do for you.


3) Social Media Monitoring: This use of social media takes a step away from the individual consumer to look at the wider space of the internet. Monitoring is a way for a brand to stay on top of who is saying what about your brand. The goal isn’t necessarily to communicate with individual people, but rather to have an ear open to anyone speaking about your brand, to watch when and why the volume of conversations increases and decreases, to see what reactions are when good or bad things happen around your brand.

I recently had the good fortune to trial Netbase's software that lets you do excatly this and it is awesome. If you are serious about social medi amonitoring this is the tool you need.


4) Social Media Research: For those of you wishing to expand your survey or focus group research beyond the asking and into the listening, this is the option for you. Social media research uses all of the same scientific principles as traditional research but focuses on social media as the data source rather surveys or focus groups as the source of data. Research objectives, sampling, weighting, standardized variables, norms, generalizability, and validity are the words of the day here. You could even go the whole hog and get a netnographic study of your communities to understand your customers in a deep and meaningful way - again the netbase tool helps immensely with this.

In the end, you must decide on your objective;
  • Do you want a communication channel for your consumers?
  • Do you want to actively seek questions and solve problems?
  • Do you want to listen to the ebb and flow of the internet?
  • Do you have specific research problems you need to solve?

You may not have the time or the budget to delve into every area but one of them probably meets a need you’re currently trying to fill.



  1. Hi Andrew,
    This is a great list of things for a business to consider when faced with the social media playing field. Do you not think that deciding what a business first wants to achieve is the most important first step before diving in as this will define what they will do, what resources they need and who should be doing it?


  2. For me there's a step before trying to identify your objectives and that's actually trying to understand what type of business you are. For me, social media is very much about mindset, rather than toolset. What type of culture are you as a company? How do you view your customers? How open are you or do you want to be? Without first understanding such things about itself, a company runs the risk of either running social media as a tactical campaign, or else thinking that by having a Facebook page or a Twitter account it will suddenly become open, authentic, and social.

    If a company talks about being customer-centric, but fails to actually deliver on that, the likelihood is that it's social approach will be the same.

    My advice, understand yourself, before you decide whether to use social in PR, marketing or customer service.

  3. Yes, it's striking that balance between talking to someone/talking to no-one, building a presence/building a reputation. All of these discussions are about building boudaries between what is seo and what is social media. The SMEs I know who have got it right - they have big background presence AND through forums and special interest groups are talking to real people - are reaping quantum benefits.

  4. Thanks Guys,

    Yes I guess as a Marketing strategist first and foremost I'd have to agree that its objectives/goals first becuse then you can choose your comms mix to be most effecive and efficeient in meeting them. I also think this is the best way to be congruent across the different messages and ensure you don't suffer congnitive dissonace in your brand/product vis a vis positioning.

  5. Hi Andrew,

    After reading through your post feedback I understand why you are saying that you firstly need to understand the company’s culture. If the culture of an organisation is not in line with the social elements and transparency of social media it will be reflected in other online forms of communication therefore what you are trying to achieve will be lost and the messages will not be congruent.



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