How do brands make sure their efforts on social media pay?
By Ivan Fernandes, Global Director, Social Media Technology at MediaCom
Social media is earning an increasing share of the global consumer's media time. Be it Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any of the other platforms popular around the world, consumers are spending more time in these spaces. Brands need to be here. But before you start updating your brand status, tweeting or posting videos, you also need to work out just what you hope to gain.
Social media is unique in that it can be an information channel, a sales channel, a customer service channel and a two-way channel. You need to be clear about which combination you and your company wants to deliver.
I'd split the potential benefits into four different areas; improved knowledge, better customer relationships, smarter business processes and idea generation.
It's possible to improve performance in each of these areas using social media. It can cut costs by stripping out more expensive, traditional solutions or it can deliver better performance and competitive advantage.
Exactly how you as advertisers assess the potential value you can get from social media will depend on the precise way you decide to use Facebook, Twitter and their ilk.
The value that companies get from the monitoring of public opinion and or the use of social media as a research tool can be one of the easiest areas to look at. In many instances, social media will replace more traditional research activity and the costs of each approach can be readily compared.
For the likes of Domino's, the use of promotional codes provide an easy measure of impact while Starbucks in the US and Canada can calculate the reduction in its advertising bill having set up a jobs-focused Facebook page.
However if brands want to make the most of social media's potential then you need to consider solutions that do more than simply save money or distribute special offers.
Social media can also deliver improved internal processes, enhancing collaboration with and incorporation of partners into the business process. Companies like Dell are using social media as a platform to enhance knowledge sharing across their companies.
Externally it can deliver a clear improvement in the way that brands deal with customers as well as enabling brands to quickly disseminate important information to both stakeholders and customers. Detergent brand Tide, for example, has a dedicated Facebook page to channel queries via social media.
Finally social media offers brands the chance to access the consumers who are loyal to and appreciate their products and services as a creative community. Pizza Hut has leveraged crowdsourcing by allowing consumers to vote on new products such as the chain's next stuffed crust recipe.
Not all these benefits will be relevant or cost-effective for every brand. It's crucial that you prioritise what you want to achieve.
Understanding all the possible uses of social media will help you and your team work out which ones are best for your company right now.