I know: We don’t usually see the phrase “social media” and “stale” in the same sentence, but I’ve gone and said it anyway. Here’s why: For the past two to four years, practitioners of social media have operated as a sort of cognoscenti society where the attendees “get it” and they have to figure out how to do their good work in organizations that, by and large, “don’t get it.” Based on my experiences, this “us and them” context seems to have three general effects on the Social Media Community:
- The underlying context of many social media discussions assumes limited budgets, confused or uninterested management, and immediate needs to prove ROI.
- The social media community, while vibrant in its own right, often has its blinders on with regards to interactions with other, non-marketing or customer service teams in their organizations.
- This relatively insular community has been swept up in shiny object syndrome. This is understandable: it's hard work keeping pace with the innovations, creativity, and new platforms that are cropping up on a weekly basis. And don’t forget the unprecedented adoption rates of social media at large.
So, if the executives are now also drinking the social media kool-aid, the conversation needs to evolve. Today, practitioners of Social Media need a broader skill set and a higher vantage point if they are to mature and incorporate their work into larger organizational efforts. In essence, it’s becoming time to leave the kids table and sit with the grown-ups. In support of this “new conversation” here’s where I believe the conversation needs to grow in the next 12 months:
- Back-to-basics focus on objectives: A focus on “engagement” is simply insufficient. Are we seeking to diminish phonecalls? Grow lifetime value? Increase sales through evangelists? A sobering look at objectives brings relevance to the larger organization and identifies the right metrics. It also puts the following bullets in context…
- Interdepartmental use of social media: This concept was originally championed in The Groundswell and The Cluetrain Manifesto (among others), but still has been embraced by only the most forward-thinking of organizations. Social Media should inform R&D, HR, crowd-sourced customer support, organizational improvement, and more. The focus does not always have to be on customer-facing commerce.
- A broader understanding of how social media can work in concert with “traditional” channels: The marketplace is rife with examples of social media efforts cannibalizing the traffic of traditional channels that (currently) have far more opportunities for conversion. As stated above, social media must break out of the silo and work in more informed partnership with other channels.
- A new focus on the process of social media: We see so many great social media ideas at these events, but they leave a lot of open questions for me: Are these campaigns scalable or repeatable? How many FTE’s does it take to support these efforts today? How many would it take a year from now? These are just some of the questions that need to be addressed in a more formal manner, along with better recommendations for roles & responsibilities descriptions and business workflow definition…