Recently I was asked how a local PR agency should use social media, specifically Twitter, to help promote clients and their products and services. Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this topic, reading other blog posts about the subject, and generally evaluating the best manner for a business to leverage social media in its’ daily activities. I was a bit surprised that this agency hadn’t already given it more thought. But that’s beside the point. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I would call myself a student, one who hungers to learn how to user various tools and figures out the most strategic, efficient manner in which to bring new tools into the PR fold.
In my short time learning about social media, I’ve made a few observations.
1) The importance of social media is the ability to create communities, listen to customer needs and build solutions to accommodate those needs. There are good and bad examples of how businesses use social media everywhere, but I’ve found that the best organizations choose to use these tools as a mechanism for two way communication. Sharing information is only one part of the equation. It’s just as important for the business to listen to what others are saying. But if you’re going to listen, you also have to be willing to act.
2) Action is an often overlooked part of the business world. We all hate to hear complaints or criticisms about our organization. But that is when we can learn the most, if you ask me. Being willing or able to make changes based on the feedback received from customers is a sign of an agile, successful business. And these are the businesses I believe will survive the recession and come out stronger and better than they were before. In today’s social media environment, not listening and taking the appropriate action can and will lead to failure.
3) My final observation for this post is not to hard sell. I’ve been in marketing long enough to realize that selling is the lifeblood of an organization. However, if all you do is sell through the social media channels, you’re only going to succeed in making people angry, which in turn will backfire. It’s happened numerous times. Taking a softer approach works much better. When you have a community of people who listen and trust what you have to say, you’re going to be far more likely to have people who come to you when they are ready to buy.
As a business leader, I’m forced to think in terms of return on investment (ROI) when it comes to strategic planning and tactical execution. In the social media world, the investment mainly comes in the form of time. Your time is extremely valuable, and most organizations want to know that they time you put into the social media efforts will bring immediate payback. The challenge for marketing and PR professionals is to build the business case for taking the time to build communities and listen to what customers say.
Before you jump on the social media bandwagon, think about why you’re there. What is your organization trying to accomplish?
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with these observations or am I off base?
Photo by Matt Hamm (via Flickr.com)