The Communicator

Social media (finally) returns value

Social Media Value (small)This year, many organizations will take a cold, hard look at their social media strategies. Sobering up from the initial marketing euphoria that seems to accompany the popular adoption of all new mediums, marketing and communications departments will focus on realigning their social media objectives and budgets to achieve results, and real value.

This will require a fundamental shift in the overall expectations of social media from ‘selling’ to ‘engaging’. In many cases, this move can be supported by a repositioning of responsibilities, taking social media budgets and management out of disparate Sales & Marketing portfolios and placing them within the oversight of Organizational Communications.

This move will facilitate two outcomes – it will de-couple social media objectives from the achievement of bottom line sales figures, and it will shift the overall expectations of social media throughout the organization.

So as you review your social media strategy this year, try to help your organization focus on five key areas where social media will create actual value:

Corporate Reputation – This year, most organizations will go beyond simply managing their corporate profile on LinkedIn and Facebook. The most tepid will harness social networks as an extension of their existing communications outreach, but market leaders will put special focus on building transparent relationships with their key influencers and most vocal detractors.

Employee Engagement – While some organizations continue to bar employees from using social media networks at the office, many professional communicators have already recognized the opportunity in creating and monitoring employee networks to enhance and manage employee engagement (for more on this topic, see Time for E2E).

Corporate Social Responsibility – An area that is already seeing good returns with social media, CSR leaders will continue to leverage the power of social networks to build awareness and encourage participation in their community, environmental and social programs. Internal charitable events (food and blood drives, United Way challenges, etc.) will find their goals more achievable through the tactical use of social media.

Issues Management – We have all seen the speed by which issues can circulate around social media networks. More than ever, professional communicators will need to put more resources towards monitoring the ‘chatter’ on popular networking sites, all the while seeking opportunities to engage supporters, manage potential issues and debunk rumours before they gain momentum. 

Client Communications and Customer Service – Many organizations are finding great success in creating social networks to provide ‘after-sales’ support. Not only are they able to communicate important product updates quickly and efficiently to customers, they enjoy increased customer loyalty and higher levels of customer service. In some cases, Customer Service departments have been able to reduce their workload by encouraging customers to provide support to each other.

The good news is that social media is ready to return value if used  properly. The trick will be in setting realistic and achievable objectives, while wrestling supervision away from those who are just looking to make a quick buck.

Social media (finally) returns value is one of our Top Ten Communications Issues for 2010. Next week we will look at Issue #8: The advent of GPS 2.0.

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