Sunday, August 28, 2011

What type of Social do you Need? - Part 1

Today, there are two social networking strategies companies are using to grow their businesses.  While both of these strategies use the social network to attract business or consumer individuals to the company, they are radially different ways to use social to brow your business.  As I work with more and more companies to deploy a social marketing strategy, I find there is a great deal of confusion in how to best use social networking.  In this blog entry, I will outline these two strategies and show how they are supports and developed by companies.  If you are considering using social, you need to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of these two strategies to pick the best way to use the amazing power of social networking to profitably grow your business.

Socializing Strategy

Go out to Facebook and look at the wall of McDonalds, or Discover Card, or Pepsi and you will see companies who are building relationships with prospects and customers using social networking.  Their approach is based on the premise that if you talk one-to-one with people and get them involved with your company, they will be more likely to consider you when the need or want a product.  When I first talk to companies considering or doing social media, this is most likely their strategy of choice.

Strategic Objectives
  • The Goal of a Socializing strategy is to create conversations with individual's attracted to the company
  • Generally, the company develops this strategy by building Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn sites and then promote to get individuals to these sites
  • The measures of importance are the number of friends on each site, the number of postings or comments being made, number of new versus existing people on the site, and other similar measures
  • In many of the companies I consult with, Socializing Strategies are managed by the PR department as they are talking directly to the people
Strengths of the Socializing Strategy

The Socializing Strategy is the one most used by businesses today for the following reason:
  • Socializing strategy allows you to widely broadcast your specials and address topics which interest a wide variety of individuals
  • It is relatively easy to deploy because you can hire young people skilled in social networks to interact with your "friends"
  • Entry costs are low and you need to do it because all of your competitors are there
  • It engages people to talk with you [and each other] through comments to your posts
Weaknesses of the Socializing Strategy

While this strategy is useful for a company, it is difficult to "sell" to senior management because of the following weaknesses
  • Untargeted - While you can create Facebook tabs and other elements to talk to unique markets, most companies engage all of their target markets on a single page.  This is like attempting to write an advertisement or email letter to commicate to all types of people.  It can't be done
  • Unmeasurable - While we can measure behaviors within each of these social networks, it is impossible to link activities on these sites to bottom-line purchases.  This is especially true if your company requires multiple channels or uses a sales force to close the deal.  While it is intuitive that talking with people will enhance their perceptions of you, it is difficult to justify growing expenditures in social marketing without a link to bottom-line sales.
  • Untestable - In a traditional marketing strategy, we test communication strategies and offers to find the ones most responsive to the individual.  We cannot do this with these social networks.  This is because it is Untargeted - we don't know exactly who we are talking to.

Summary of Part 1

While companies should look to deploy a Socializing Strategy to talk to people, it is important to think of it as socializing and not marketing.  The weaknesses of the Socializing Strategy are the exact strengths of a targeted marketering effort.  To really grow in the markets of highest value to your company and build stronger relationships with your best customers, you need to use social networks in a different a part of a Social IMC Strategy.  In the next installment, we will examine Social IMC and see how it differs from a Socializing Strategy.

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