4 Social Media Questions Answered

By Erik Qualman

I periodically find it helpful to put together a list of the top questions I’m asked by people, corporations and the media.  Hopefully you find my answers helpful.

1]  Do most companies seem to have clear strategies and direction with social media or does it seem like people are still trying to figure out what to do with it and how it can help them?

Some of the good companies have a clear strategy, while others are just dipping their toe in the water.  The key with social media is to fail fast, fail forward and fail better.  You aren’t going to get it right the first time, but you aren’t going to learn anything if you don’t take that first step.  The beauty of social media is that your customers are very forgiving and at the same time, helpful at expressing exactly what they need from you as a company.  It is the world’s largest focus group on Steroids.

2]  Do you think most companies will go “in-house” with their social media, or will there still be a place to hire the freelance person who gets paid to Tweet, or the consulting firm?

Since social media touches ever facet of the business it inherently lends itself to most activity being taken in-house.  Also, the conversations need to be genuine and it’s easier to establish that trust if it is coming from you, not a surrogate. Social media is not an ‘or,’ it’s an ‘and’ in marketing. Dell recently indicated that they originally had 40 people focused on social media. They soon realized it’s not just the 40 people that need to own social media, it’s the entire company. Every person, whether it’s someone on the phone answering customer service, or any other employee, these employees have a Facebook accounts, they have Twitter accounts, and they are representing Dell whether it is working hours or not.

While a majority will reside “in-house,” for certain components it still makes a world of sense to bring in help from a HubSpot, Mari Smith, Chris Brogan, Tamar Weinberg, Kami Huyse, David Meerman Scott, Charlene Li, Sarah Evans, Lee Odden, Brian Breslin, etc.

3]  What, in your view, are the most common ways that corporations have embraced social media? Is it making a Facebook page, sending official Tweets, or maybe a mix of things?

The good companies know a sound social media strategy is much more than a Facebook Fan Page or setting up a Twitter Account.  However, there are some companies that think putting up only a Facebook Fan Page is a sound social media strategy.  The good companies know that social media has to be integrated into everything that they do – it is a part of their overall strategy since it touches every facet of the business.

I was fortunate to share the stage with Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford) and they have used social media as a driver to help not only change the external perception of the Brand, but it has helped change the internal culture – he mentioned this in his speech.  He was also a recent keynote at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) – this spot is normally reserved for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc.  not the CEO of a car company – that is a radical change in a short period of time.  They have shifted their spend from 10% digital to 25% digital.  Historically their competition spends less than 10% of their marketing dollars are digital initiatives.  It is no coincidence that they haven’t had to take out a government loan and that their Stock Has increased from $1.5 to $11.  In fact the Altimeter Group did a study that showed Companies actively engaged in Social Media had higher revenue increases than those that weren’t active.  Also it has flowed downstream to production to where their cars are enabled with WiFi, MP3 Synch Technology, ability to tweet & status update via voice commands while driving, etc.  This is a reflection of the great work that James Farley, Scott Monty and others are doing there.

4]  Where do you see the future of social media?

Much will be around data aggregation and the sharing of this information amongst the social graph.  What have my friends purchased?  What services or restaurants have they rated highly?  You will see search and social media begin to merge with the end result being we will no longer search for products and services via a search engine, rather they will find us via social media.  This is one of the true powers of social media!  I care more what my friends and peers link than about what an algorithm or opaque rating system spits out.

Also, users will demand more control of their privacy.  In a simplified example some photos a user doesn’t mind sending to the universe, while others they only want to send to 5 select people.

Oh, and thirty other things we haven’t even dreamed up…that’s what is exciting!

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11 responses to “4 Social Media Questions Answered

  1. Eric,
    I think you wrote a great article but I had just one question. You describe the future of social media, but which futur do you talk about? Will this be on the short term? And where do you think social media will be on the medium and long term?

  2. Eric,
    I’m immersing myself in reading about social media marketing. I have books from Clara Shih and Tamar Weinberg. I’ve also read tons of blogs (including yours). I still can’t find any “success stories” of companies doing B2B marketing who find social media marketing has grown their business. I see the stories on Dell, Ford, and even a little company called BlendTech, but no stories detailing how a consulting firm grew its client/project list by using social media. As president of a small learning design firm…I’d really like some “proof” as I’m investing lots of time in social media!

    • Sharon:

      I will look for some B2B examples. One of the biggest helps for B2B is the downstream conversation. That is listening to your client’s customers (if there is a lot of chatter). If you are Intel supplying the chips to Dell, Apple, etc. you will want to sniff out problems and opportunities based on what Dell and Apple users are saying about what they like and don’t like (e.g., I hate that my Mac is always slow when I do ….. ).

      If you find any good examples let me know and I’ll do the same!

  3. Hi, great comments Erik, how do you think the highly regulated businesses are coping with integrating social media into their marketing strategies?

    • I know that high regulated industries like Pharma and Law have found some difficulties, but that they are making headway. In fact I actually feel that social media will help drive reform in some antiquated policies. In the short term though, where there is a will there is a way.

      I also feel there are large opportunities for agencies and consultants to specialize in social media for these regulated industries. Those are my thoughts! Great question.

  4. thanks for the mention. I think the role of consultants like me is to help a company craft their strategy, then teach them how to do it. In my case we help actually programming/deploying the stuff, but i think many other consultants should be able to help companies either build things or find those who can build them. Makes sense for consultants in this sphere to build ties to software development shops, or build their own.
    Glad I’ve been able to help ya out 🙂

  5. Have not got a chance to read your book, but will by this weekend.

    On your last point, do you see this as an interaction on a brand level or on a consumer level? Will this be implemented via a Facebook app from the Brand or will it be integrated into the social network platform itself?

    • Scott:

      This is a great question in regards to people being able to see ratings/reviews from their friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc. In the short term, great companies/brands may try to “jump start” this via advancements in tools like Bazaarvoice, but long term I really see it being a jump ball between several players: Search Engines, Browsers, Social Networks…and the winner may just come down to who we, the consumers, trust the most. If done right the real winners are companies that produce great products/value and the consumer! Great question!

  6. Great article!

    I think that you are right on point in your assessment of how social media should be executed.

    You know what they say…. teach a man to fish….

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