Earlier today, I was chatting with a couple of old colleagues about how brands think about and approach social media, and what holds them back from running successful social media programs at scale. Aside from a lack of resource allocation, most brands are held back by the lack of power social media teams are given to run truly effective programs. Most brands don’t make it past the crawl stage of social business evolution due to a lack of understanding of how adopting social business practices can help brands capture a competitive advantage.
In my experience, executives inside organizations typically don’t empower their social media teams for one or both of these reasons:
- Lack of information: Social media is fairly new, and many brands’ social media programs are new, so many do not have a proven track record of success or a method for proving ROI. The lack of standardization in measuring social media (if we really need one) also adds to this issue because there is a lack of good benchmarking studies and information resources to turn to.
- Too much misinformation: Not to get too political on this subject, but the media has contributed to a lot of the hype around social. This has created some unrealistic expectations amongst executives about the actual return on investment from social media programs. Some execs even feel like they themselves have become “social media gurus” because they have read one of many “10 Things You Need To Do on Facebook RIGHT NOW!!!” articles (thanks, Mashable).
Too many marketing executives look at social as being separate from their larger digital marketing program. Social media has become this new thing that is pinned on to existing marketing campaigns, versus an integrated facet of a larger digital program. Without a clear place in an organization’s larger digital strategy, social media will continue to fail for most brands.
We, as social media practitioners, are mainly at fault. I include myself in this. We perpetuate the hype of social media being the greatest thing since sliced bread, but let’s be honest, there are few case studies we can turn to that show social media outperforming other forms of digital marketing. I say this not to diminish the important role that social media plays in a holistic digital program, but to say that hyping social media as the second coming of Jesus has put us in a very odd predicament.
We need to develop a better framework for looking at social media as part of a larger digital marketing ecosystem to help executives understand what role it plays in meeting larger business goals. Brian Solis makes a good argument for social media practitioners to stop talking about social media if they want to make the business case for investment in their social media programs. This basic argument – talk to executives about business results, not marketing tactics – puts social media on the same playing field of email, paid media and search. All of these facets of digital should share the same goals, because business goals should be void of any marketing channel.
I pledge to stop hyping social media for anything more than it is – a marketing channel that serves the same purpose as all other channels in a well executed integrated marketing program.