Back in April I published a report called Take Control of Your Social Marketing, which looks at the emerging market of social marketing management tools. In it, I identified three groups of these tools: the social publishing platforms, the social promotion builders, and the platforms that focus on both.
In the two brief months since that report came out, the volume of questions I get about the topic has skyrocketed. I can’t say this is surprising, as our own research is showing that many marketers are reaching a level of social marketing maturity at which tools like these can greatly increase the efficiency and success of their programs. There’s also been a lot of press coverage of the moves, changes, and announcements coming out of the vendors in this space, which has undoubtedly raised the profiles of these companies with marketers.
In January, Vitrue, a company that falls into the “concentrating on both” category and which wasn’t able to participate in the original report, announced the closing of a $17 million series C financing round.
In February, Syncapse Corp. made its own financing announcement -- an investment commitment of $25 million.
In March, SocialWare announced a partnership with LinkedIn that brings its regulatory compliance expertise and tools to the professionals’ social network.
Forrester’s book Groundswell made the power of social media tangible with real-world examples and laid out a framework to help onboard organizations. However, many companies today still struggle to benchmark their social media journey, manage bottom-up social activities, and prove the ROI of social media activities. The new chapters published in the just-released expanded and revised edition of Groundswell highlight some best practices. Here are some of them:
Understand why you are embarking on the social journey, and connect social media objectives to the company strategy. Ask hard questions like “Will my social presence help move the customer satisfaction needle?”, “Will it help sell more products?”, and “Will it deflect costs from my service center?”.
Treat social media as another channel in which to engage customers. Customers still want to call you (a surprising 67% of the time), email you, and chat with you. Make sure that your processes, policies, and communicated information are the same across all channels — traditional and social.
Connect your social media efforts. There may be many social media technologies used within your company. Ensure that there is some level of coordination between internal organizations so that you can uphold a consistent experience and brand for your customers.
Start small and staff social media initiatives with existing employees who understand your customers and your business. This is important to help extend your brand — your DNA — to your social channels.
It’s been almost a year since I wrote Latin American Social Technographics® Revealed, which demonstrated this group of consumers’ voracious love of social media. In that report I highlighted how this high level of social engagement is not exclusive to just entertaining themselves or connecting with family and friends. In fact, it also extends to interacting with companies, with activities such as reading their blogs, following them on Twitter, or even watching a video they produced.
Given the ease with which companies can connect with online Latin Americans via social media, I’ve now published a new report entitled Take Advantage: Latin American Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators that examines whether companies can extend this interactive and social connection with consumers into the realm of co-creation in the social online world. My colleague Doug Williams, who focuses on co-creation processes for the consumer product strategy professional, defines “social co-creation” as the process of using social technologies as a vehicle to execute co-creation engagements.
To examine the viability of social co-creation in Latin America, we assessed the factors that we feel are crucial for a successful social co-creation engagement to occur. They are:
A high level of engagement with social media — especially at the Conversationalist and Critic levels.
A high degree of interaction with companies using social media tools.
An inherent willingness to co-create with companies.
There are a lot of vendors pitching their social media listening capabilities. And, the more that I hear these pitches, the more it has made me think that a bunch of companies jumping on the social media bandwagon are going down a dangerous road of using it as a customer service escalation strategy — which is a horrible idea.
Let me illustrate with a recent story I heard. A woman discovered that the VIN number of her car was improperly recorded on her last visit to the California DMV. As she tried to get it fixed, she found out it was going to require a lot more effort than she hoped (perhaps it included a visit back to a local office). She tweeted about it. Remarkably: The California DMV was listening!! It tweeted her back, contacted her, and helped her resolve the issue in a fraction of the time and energy it would have taken. The result: a happy customer.
There are a couple of strange things about this story. First, the DMV can’t fix its long waits and broken processes, but it has people listening to Twitter. Hmm. Second, it rewarded someone who complained to the entire world about its broken process. The next time I want a quick fix to a problem I have with the DMV, remind me to tweet about it!
Congratulations to companies that can respond to the relatively few tweets they get via this channel today. Are you prepared to scale this operation as you re-enforce people to get service from you this way? More importantly, is that really the venue in which you want to solve problems?
We've been working on a major piece of research to answer a fundamental question now affecting our clients: “How do companies change as they adopt social technologies?” Today, we’ve published the report: Accelerating Your Social Maturity: How To Move From Social Experimentation To Business Transformation, which you can also find as a new chapter in the newly updated paperback version of the Groundswell book. Staying true to the nature of the research, this was a collaborative effort involving analysts from all nineteen of the roles Forrester serves across Marketing & Strategy, IT, and the Technology Industry, but it was ultimately written to interactive marketers like you who are often on the front lines of social media for their organization.
So what did we learn? The biggest insight that came from this research is that, no matter what industry your company is in, what geographies you reside in, or what audience you’re targeting, large organizations tend to go through common stages of change as they adopt and use social technologies for business. We call this process of change “social maturity,” and we've outlined the steps to accelerate from one stage to the next. In fact, combining survey data of 95 respondents involved in social media at companies with more than 1,000 employees, interviews with more than 30 companies at all stages of maturity, and a wide range of existing research, we were able to plot each stage onto the following bell curve that reads right to left (you may recognize this model from the Diffusion Of Innovations theory):