Many companies – from small companies to enterprises – have been juggling this question for the past years. Some have become very active, but their messages or aim are somewhat diluted. Others have resigned and some have simply done nothing. So far.
To help you to potentially draw a conclusion for your company, let me take you back a few steps on some major influences on marketing and communication. It should help you understand the advantages or disadvantages social media can actually have for your company.
We all know, marketing is about the four P’s: product, place, price, promotion. Been there, done that, dusted.
What is important, though, is the competition, the trends, the customer insights and maybe legal aspects or governmental developments. So we added this to our analysis and felt ready to develop our strategy and concepts to communicate with our target groups. Well done, if these are the basics you use to support your sales force, top management and R&D department.
Internet & mobile phones made the “place” bigger
Then, some fifteen years ago the world has changed, when the Internet changed our way of communication and knowledge sharing. All in a sudden the place became bigger, and the opportunities for promotions much more direct and measurable. We were able to track our prospects paths and activities. Still, we produced products for and offered services to customers. All at the same, it was very convenient, but also sometimes threatening that our competitors were just one click away. Overall, we felt pretty much in control.
In this environment, the challenge for a marketer had been to define the necessary KPI’s in order to guide customers and prospects to the website, keep them and turn them into leads or loyal customers. Applause to all marketers that linked online activities with their offline activities, and delivered clear messages and the same brand experience across all channels to the mass (or at least weighted customer segments). As the WWW grew, we got smarter and smarter on search engine and algorithms. So we started fighting for being found. Our target groups got more mobile? Never mind, we integrated mobile marketing into our concepts.
Social media means, customer and product roles are being swapped
With social media the world has changed immensely: the brand is not just a promise anymore. It must overcome criticism, shit storms and truly engage on an personal level. Nowadays the consumer really is our centre. Not our product or the services we offer. We have to market, communicate and satisfy on an individual level to be liked and shared.
But what does a marketer know about individuals? They are not predictable. They can go off with a statement and create a crisis that will leave your brand very vulnerable. The difference is, we are not in control anymore. This is the moment, where big corporations must ask themselves, if they want to take back over the driving seat or stay out and leave everything to chance. This is a big risk. And also a waste of opportunities. Because the brand might not become social. They might not attract the best talent. They might also not raise their image in a particular way and might not be seen as a leader in its field. If marketers have claimed that in the past, we will now be judged on that. Uncompromisingly.
Small and midsized companies on the contrary do have an opportunity of raising awareness, which they otherwise don’t have as easily with a small marketing budget. They can claim their niche and become really popular for that. However, they need to have the resources to deal with that. Front-end and back-end.
Is social media useful for your brand?
Now, is social media useful for every company and brand? To B2B companies, to insurance companies or financial companies? I would say, maybe. It depends on several underlying factors, which take me back to the basics of a marketer’s work: on what your competitors do, on the user’s experiences, on subjects and on the vision you have. You need to do a thorough analysis on your status quo and on the social media environment you want to plunge into. Define your vision and your objectives. Then develop your strategy, followed by a solid concept – ideally with integrated tactics spanning from online to offline. Don’t get started without any strategy!
Even, if the results of your analysis convince you to stay out of the social media environment, you need to have a strategy for this, too.