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That’s quite a big question to answer. Primarily because social touches so many parts of a business. Marketing, PR, internal communications, brand, new product development, research, customer care, reputation management…to name but a few.

But this sort of adds to the mystique and the perceived difficulty of deploying social rather than actually helping. 

The biggest challenge that we see for companies trying to implement a social vision is…that there is no vision.

Social is so often seen as either something to be scared of, or something akin to a silver bullet…a cure for all ills. And, in reality it’s neither.

Social is more of a process. It requires everyone (or at least everyone involved) to do some simple things which they already understand and know how to do, and to do them often. Every day.

So, often our first job when we work with a company is to set expectations, not in terms of what we can deliver because if I’m honest we’re pretty fantastic at doing this, but more in terms of what the client will need to do.

A few things which are paramount are:

UNDERSTAND – they need to understand what social can do, and what it can’t do. They need to know that this will be a long-term project and that whist they may get some massive short term benefits…more than likely they won’t. It will be a long road which will require perseverance and commitment.

COMMITMENT – they need to commit sometimes money…always resources and they need to make sure that these resources are not diverted from the job of distributing content and creating engagement.

MEASURE – measuring the result of everything is vital. I cannot tell you the number of times I have sat in a meeting and heard the client/agency say things like “we’ve just launched a campaign and it’s really good” or “people will read this page and they’ll visit the website” or other such pie-in-the-sky thinking. The reality is that they may visit the website and the campaign may be really good…but proof and hope are entirely different things. Understanding what you need to measure and how is a pre-requisite for success.

AGNOSTICISM – this is kind of tied to the previous one. You must be able to park your preconceptions about what will work and what won’t. Some of the best ideas fail…and some mediocre ones succeed. It’s important to recognise that your measurement criteria of what’s good and what’s bad isn’t necessarily the same as mine. The great thing about digital marketing and particularly social is that you can measure everything and be absolutely sure of what your audience likes and doesn’t like.

ALIGNMENT – if everyone in the business, or at least everyone in the management team isn’t aligned around a shared goal and an agreement of what constitutes success, the social roll-out is unlikely to be a success.

BRAVERY – this may sound like a bit of an odd thing to list, but so often in the marketing world we see organisations basically copying what others have done (not in a legal infringement sort of way) by simply recycling someone else’s good idea. The winners all break new ground. Find your own corporate voice…and use that. Authenticity is a very attractive trait.

PERSEVERANCE – this is the most important single thing every person and company involved in social media must have. You must be prepared to keep trying. Idea ofter idea after idea will fail. But you have to climb straight back on the horse and have another go. The reason is that what you have exhausted all the things that don’t work…all that’s left is what does. And with half of the world’s population social media regularly, that’s a pretty big reason to keep trying.

The thing that should give you hope is that “everyone’s rubbish at this stuff”…well, not everyone, but you’d be amazed how many organisations are. In my time working for Oracle I spoke to, I estimate, 1,000 different companies about their social strategy. Of those how many had it nailed do you think…so nailed and polished that there was nothing I could do to help? 1. Yes, ONE!

Of the remaining 999 I would say that 90 percent were really just beginning their social journey, they perhaps had big budgets or big aspirations…and they certainly were big brands, but they were just starting out in social.

Which leaves you…your company…as a potential market leader.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.