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The Big Job of Social Media in Business

Applying social media to business communications, while all the rage and perhaps effectively addressing millennial audiences' media use, typically requires a fairly radical change in company culture. It also demands an often substantial or even unacceptable investment of time and money.

In other words, its one thing to start a Twitter or Facebook account… It's something completely different to have your company team members well-trained and being actively, effectively, and carefully engaged directly with customers, competitors, critics, cranks, and crazies. Also, just because a competitor is using social media doesn't mean your company should or that your competitor is even getting major benefits from it. Apply social media to your marketing mix for much better reasons than just “the cool factor.”

Managing corporate social media engagement isn't something to just add on to an existing marketing campaign. It can certainly be an advantage if monitored and done well. And it can also be a huge waste of time or take you down a rat hole. To sum up, approach social media engagement with caution and eyes wide open before jumping in. Also, don't leave managing it to a millennial with little business sense or communications background just because he or she happens to have been using it personally for a few years and claims to know all about it. For businesses, social media use is a larger step than you may realize.

For B2B tech brands, if you're going to jump in, I recommend applying LinkedIn as an initial social media platform. Have those who will be involved in social media engagement (see social media management above) become active and knowledgeable in the ways that LinkedIn may be used as a business tool. For example, have them find and become involved in special interest groups on the site, starting and chiming in on conversations.

See what happens after a year of consistent, active engagement there. Take any next steps under the guidance of a highly experienced social media marketing pro, if your company culture is ready for it. Don't get spread too thin with social media. There are other media that are also well worth experimenting with depending on a company's size, competitive position, budget, and key customer behaviors and interests.

Most importantly, before applying any new tactic, ask yourself if your brand has a defensible, supportable, clearly differentiated competitive claim that will strategically guide social media and all other marketing initiatives? If not, figure that out first. Don't go off half-cocked without knowing how you want to be known in your market. Without a sharply defined communications strategy, you'll be wasting time and money regardless of what media you apply to growing your business.

19 comments on “The Big Job of Social Media in Business

  1. AdamRobinsonCerasis
    July 3, 2014

    I guess I see that you are looking at social media from a 30,000 foot level, and saying that it should be taken with great care as a company initiates it as a business, sales, and marketing channel. However, to say something like “Don't give it to a millennial, as they won't have the business experience…..” is both offensive and flat out wrong. It is saying such generational generalities that does not help ANYONE. I am a millennial, and I have launched, quite successfully, our social media marketing program, generating leads, business, and much increased brand awareness and respect in the industrial space as a thought leader.

    You also are looking at it wrongly, in my opinion. This article would have fit well 5 years ago, but it's outdated today. Social media is only a sliver in the pie of all of digital marketing. Content marketing powers social media, and activity in social media empowers search engine rankings/optimization. 

    Your article's point is to take it seriously, which I agree with, but it fails to look at the WHOLE picture. That you cannot just look at social media and say as a company, “We should do that.” You have to look at ALL of marketing, and integrate it all together. Social is no longer a cannot do, as you somewhat allude that some companies cannot do it. If you are not going to do social media, than you should do NO marketing. To be competitive today, you MUST do social media, but you also must have a great website, have content marketing, have a strategy, and integrate into all marketing. 

    If we want to get to generalities, don't have a 55 year old guy write an article about social media, as the baby boomers just don't get that it's more than just social media, that it's called marketing and branding. 

  2. Ford Kanzler
    July 3, 2014

    Sorry if you're offended by the admitted generality. However, the error of assigning something as critical as social media management to inexperienced people with alledged social media skills merely because they've been using it personally, is evident and rampant. The comparison is valid. I've encountered it repeatedly even with my admittedly limited number of client engagements experienced within the last few years. This practice certainly may not always be the case. Didn't say it was. The Navy doesn't normally put ensigns in command of large warships for the same reason. That you've had success managing social media is an example. (You'll likely get even better at it as time passes.) My point is, don't assign responsibilities on the single basis of claimed familiarity with using sociai personally. Some other very important skills are also required for business use. Are there highly social media management-capable millennials? Certainly. Are people of that vintage ipso-facto capable? I strongly suggest not. Being on the minute-to-minute edge of customer/investor/competitor/market engagement requires very well-honed business skills, understandings and a strong degree of maturity. Letting someone loose without them is a recipe for BIG trouble. Pretty sure you'll agree with that. Experience and business savvy typically come with practice gained over time. Not right out of school, for any generation. I wouldn't suggest assigning social media management to someone of any generation who's not neck-deep in experience. Does that work?

    My point again is, don't leave social media management to someone who's claiming to merely have had Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest accounts for a while and wants the job. For it to work effectively, most often the WHOLE COMPANY needs to make significant adjustments to effectively meet social media demands. Some companies or organizations may not be well prepared for that kind of adjustment. Can they adjust? Certainly if they want to. If the US Army can figure it out, then likely a competitive commercial business should be able to. But it may be really tough or even impossible for some.

    I'd further disagree that an online or any marketing program absolutely presupposes applying social media. Yes, applying it may be a good scenario. Community engagement doesn't require diving into all the social media ponds. And more to the point, the comment advocating, “If you are not going to do social media, than (sic) you should do NO marketing,” is way beyond overstatement. 'Suggest rethinking that one.

    Social media is just that…a media channel. It's an approach that may or may not make sense to apply for any particular marketing campaign. All channels don't work in all circumstances or within all budgets or company cultures. Would you say the same thing about any other media channel?

    It seems we do agree that just simply embracing social media activity alone, because its cool, is a bad idea. We also agree on the highly desirable concept and practice of integrated marketing. I've written lots here about working on that. But integrated marketing usually doesn't happen simultaneously. Pieces may be added to the mix, perhaps including social media engagement, in varying degrees, as talents and resources become available and make sense. Its not a “must do” for all marketers in every case by any stretch. Social media doesn't equal Marketing. Just as all chickens are not roosters. Marketing includes WAY more than merely the use of social media. That's like saying Marketing equals advertising. The terms do get confused. But, as already mentioned, social is just a piece of the entire, complex Marketing puzzle. Sometimes perhaps an unnecessary or unworkable piece.

    The final ageist shot in the comment about boomers apparently not getting social, demonstrates some ignorance of well-reported social media behavior trends. It's also underestimating a rather large, experienced portion of the population. Boomers are into social big-time. More recent adopters? Sure! But they're on it as a rapidly growing percentage which perhaps makes consideration of applying social media all the more valid for some businesses, but not a requirement for all of them.

     

  3. AdamRobinsonCerasis
    July 3, 2014

    Great reply and I agree with it all.

    My ageist comment was definitely in jest and in sarcasm. Poorly worded on my part to get my point across, and I apolgize for offense. We both agree that it's all about making sure you put together a strategy. Call me passionate, but when I see Millennial before something like that, I get a bit extra passionate (read emotinal). 🙂

    In the end, it's not about a millennial or a baby boomer doing this or that. It's what your article's point was…..get a strategy, integrate, evaluate what channels work for your business's resources. It's all about that return in the end. IT's also about getting someone who knows what they are doing to get the job done effectively.

    Cheers! 

    Adam

  4. Daniel
    July 4, 2014

    “Applying social media to business communications, while all the rage and perhaps effectively addressing millennial audiences' media use, typically requires a fairly radical change in company culture. It also demands an often substantial or even unacceptable investment of time and money.”

    Ford, irrespective of reasons, most of the companies are trying to increase their social media presents for better reachability and wide presents. They found its accost effective solution than airing commercial advertisements.

  5. Daniel
    July 4, 2014

    “Yes, applying it may be a good scenario. Community engagement doesn't require diving into all the social media ponds. And more to the point, the comment advocating, “If you are not going to do social media, than (sic) you should do NO marketing,” is way beyond overstatement. 'Suggest rethinking that one.'

    Ford, it's all depends up on the business divisions to take further call about whether they need to use social medias or Not. Many are doing the business well without new age social medias. Again its based on type of business and audience.

  6. Ford Kanzler
    July 4, 2014

    While social media may be cost-effective, its certainly not free and may involve many employees' time which obviously has associated costs. That should be dialed into the analysis as well as company culture questions.

    There are also certainly many other ways of helping drive, awareness, credibility and demand aside from traditional advertising. However, advertising still works well for many brands and should never be discounted as a brand awareness-sustaining media.

  7. Ford Kanzler
    July 4, 2014

    Agree! Every business is different and its circumstances evolve, sometimes rapidly. The choice of media channels is part of the marketing management challenge which may depend on a host of variables including size, competitive landscape, resources, company culture and many others.

  8. _hm
    July 5, 2014

    Social media is like fashion. It becomes a lot popular and suddenly it disappears. For how long this trend will last?

    Also, time is of paramount. Many people do not have time at all for this unproductive social media.

  9. Ford Kanzler
    July 5, 2014

    I don't feel social media is a fad. It's a newly enabled method of rapidly communicating over distances, somewhat like telecommunications, which certainly isn't a fad. But I do think it will evolve as have other human communications styles. New tools and technologies will replace the currently popular (fad) platforms with something more involving. It is dificult knowing what that will look like. But change it certainly will. Whether it remains an effective platform for business communications and commerce for some companies to use, I cannot tell.

    As you point out, it sucks up an unfortunate portion of many people's lives and workplace productivity and seems to become something of an addictive replacement for real engagement. Much has already been written about this.

  10. Daniel
    July 7, 2014

    “Agree! Every business is different and its circumstances evolve, sometimes rapidly. The choice of media channels is part of the marketing management challenge which may depend on a host of variables including size, competitive landscape, resources, company culture and many others.”

    Ford, No doubt about that. Choice of media channels depends up on the target audience too.

  11. Daniel
    July 7, 2014

    “While social media may be cost-effective, its certainly not free and may involve many employees' time which obviously has associated costs. That should be dialed into the analysis as well as company culture questions.”

    Ford, I feel that social medias advertisements are cost effective than airing commercial videos or advertisement in newspaper.

  12. SP
    July 7, 2014

    Quite agree, social media has lot of inflence these days on marketing. But it has to be used in smart way and well cautioned way. The respective team members must initiate interest in wide user groups and handle criticism with ease. Also lot of watchdogs are needed. At the employee level too, must be seen that social media is not being misused. But at this time no one can deny the strong impact of social media on business whether its tech or entertainment. If you are in tech oriented then linkedin is so good a platform, its still have lot of seriousness and ease at the same time. And if your busness is at the entertainment level then facebook, twitter works very well because its more to do with friends and family there.

  13. FLYINGSCOT
    July 7, 2014

    I believe many traditional companies dabble in social media as a business outlet but it is done on a very ad hoc basis.  As such I believe that they are missing a big opportunity.  I guess this will change when the young of today become the old of tomorrow.

  14. Ford Kanzler
    July 7, 2014

    Yes. Many companies are attempting to apply social media to business but are either failing completely (e.g. inactive accounts) or obviously not getting a good return on it. Organizations will change and become more adept or cease using specific channels. The platforms themselves will also evolve allowing more effective uses.

    As also commented below, some platforms better suit business in differing market sectors. Attempts at being effective on a wide range of platforms can certainly be a huge resource drain. As always, a sharp focus typically brings the best results. For technology businesses, Linkedin clearly makes sense and may be an effective marketing communications investment. But using it well still takes planning as well as people's time and talents to gain desired results.

  15. Daniel
    July 8, 2014

    “Quite agree, social media has lot of inflence these days on marketing. But it has to be used in smart way and well cautioned way. The respective team members must initiate interest in wide user groups and handle criticism with ease.”

    You are right SP, social medias can be the face of PR and they have to handle it very carefully. Otherwise it can spoil the entire business too.

  16. Daniel
    July 8, 2014

    “I believe many traditional companies dabble in social media as a business outlet but it is done on a very ad hoc basis.  As such I believe that they are missing a big opportunity.  I guess this will change when the young of today become the old of tomorrow.”

    Flyingscott, most of the companies are using for customer support also. I mean as an interface between PR and user.

  17. Ford Kanzler
    July 9, 2014

    @ Rich – Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your comment. It appears to be an attempt at humor. I'm certainly NOT recommending everyone in an organization be heavily involved in social medai engagment. It may run anywhere from a full-time job for some, to occasional involvement for others all the way to none at all for many. And even the ones who are, obviously need to balance their workloads.

    A company's social media planning and training efforts should map out the who, what and when of engagement. How the company operates and choices about the appropriate level of investment, are among the required decisions. Some companies may find they need to add specialized staff. However the chance of such action overcoming national unemployment problems ain't likely. 🙂

     

  18. Faustine
    September 19, 2017

    Social media has become the focus of not only our private lives, but ourcareers as well

  19. Eduardo.Master
    September 19, 2017

    Managing corporate social media engagement isn't something to just add on to an existing marketing campaign.

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