Four steps for businesses to get started with social media

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Many businesses want to get started using social media or want to make their use of social media more effective. There is often a benefit of talking to a specialist social media agency. But for all businesses and organisations, whatever their size and whatever their focus, there are four simple steps that will put you on the right track with social media. Make sure you are using it but doing so in an informed way.

The presentation below takes you from listening and understanding what people are saying, to measuring and evaluating the impact you are having in four simple steps. If you want more information on this or on how to get started with social media then look at the FreshNetworks guide to Getting Started in Social Media.

Preparing for significant regulation changes in social media

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My first session on the IAB Social Media Council had us debating the upcoming regulation changes which will see the ASA’s remit extended to cover marketing on websites from 1st March 2011.

So what? Well the Advertising Standards Authority is “the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media” but until now this did not include websites (and for websites also read social networks, blogs etc). This new regulation means that marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other third party space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter, will have to adhere to the “non-broadcast advertising rules” as set out in the CAP Code.

The aim is to drive companies to ensure marketing messages on their websites are legal, decent, honest and truthful. This should go without saying but think of how celebs are used in social media marketing – when they are speaking about a product are they doing so because they are paid? What about the blog you read extolling a product – was that review paid for? Currently this is unclear but the ASA aims to remove that uncertainty.

How? Well, the ASA does not set rules, just guidance so it is currently unclear exactly what will fall foul of the regulations.

On the Council we are looking to lead the way with self regulation and I am interested in your views of how this should be done?

  • Should sponsored tweets feature a hashtag such as #ad or #spon
  • What if a paid brand advocate happens to tweet about the brand, is this ‘paid’
  • What constitutes being paid? Is a blogger who is given product to review ‘paid’?

At FreshNetworks we have always advocated responsible social media practice and support the ASA’s work to clear up this grey area.

I will be updating you as new information comes out and would love your thoughts on this as they will help drive the self regulation response.

Why you shouldn’t join every conversation about your brand online

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Keep calm and carry on
Image by scottroberts via Flickr

When brands start social media monitoring, the ability to get real-time alerts whenever your brand is mentioned can be enlightening. Your inbox is suddenly filled, almost in real time, with every mention of your brand. The good, the band, and the ugly. The temptation can be to respond to all of these. To counteract every negative comment. To respond to and then spread every positive experience. To answer and resolve every question. This is only natural for people who care about the brands they work for. But the best approach is often not to respond. In fact, in many if not most instances, a brand should not respond to people talking about it online.

The real benefit of social media monitoring for brands is that it allows you to be aware of and listen in to conversations that you might not have known were going on otherwise. People who express their frustration with your product but would never have told you, advocates telling others just how great you are, or people sharing useful feedback and product development ideas. It’s great to see all of these things and the temptation is to respond. But more often than not, the best thing a brand can do is to not respond.

Doing nothing is often the most difficult thing to do. But it is often the right thing to do. If you overheard two people ranting about your brand on a train you would be unlikely to interrupt. If you heard people talking in a cafe about great customer service they’d received from your team you would probably listen, feel proud and let them tell each other how great you are. There is no need to interrupt in these cases. A rant is probably just a rant and there is little you can do to change this. And people being positive are probably doing lots of good for you on their own without you needing to add anything. Whilst things are different in social media - notably that the comments can be seen by a much larger audience and that they are archived and searchable. But often the same rules apply.

If you have nothing to add, don’t say anything, and if you will only inflame a situation then stay out of it

Overall, brands should be careful about engaging online and have a clear process of when to respond, and when not to respond. There are two very clear cases where a brand should always step in:

  1. Where an actual customer service complaint is being expressed - you should step in to respond to this, pointing people in the direction of where they can get support or dealing with this complaint through your existing channels.
  2. Where incorrect things are being said about your brand, products or organisation - you should correct the incorrect messaging that is being spread and answer any questions

In all other instances you should be more circumspect about getting involved. You should have a simple process for reacting and responding online and use this to help guide you. But overall you should do nothing more than you do something. Monitor, report on and learn from everything people say about you online. But don’t feel the need to get involved in every conversation.

Five trends all marketers should watch in social media in 2011

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New year card 2011 (II)

Image by DailyPic via Flickr

Through December we’ve run an informal series on social media in 2011 - trends and developments that we are witnessing at FreshNetworks with our work with clients across Europe. Social media budgets are set to rise across Europe and they are not just in marketing or communications functions. The real shift that has started in 2010 and will develop and mature in 2011 is a move from social media marketing to social business. Recognising and capitalising on the fact that social media has impacts and benefits across a business and using social media strategically where it can have the biggest and most important impact.

The task in 2011 will be for brands to consider where social media can have the biggest impact across their business and how they will adapt and change to realise these benefits.

Here are five trends that we are seeing in social media marketing (and beyond) and that we expect to see more of in 2011.

1) Social media marketing budgets set to rise

Research shows that not only are budgets for social media marketing rising, but an increasing number of brands are prioritising this spend over other media. The truth behind this may just be that spend in this area has moved from being exceptional or experimentation to more regular spending. Or it may be that more areas of the business are starting to see social media as a a core part of their activities. But whatever the cause, overall budgets to spend on social media is rising and will rise more in 2011.

This will reinforce the need to make sure that brands are using social media strategically, and that it is not just being used by one function or team. A brand that is just using social media as a PR tool is almost certainly missing out on other opportunities or ways in which it can help.

2) Location-based marketing should be about more than just vouchers

Location-based tools and services continue to develop and with them opportunities for location-based marketing. If 2010 was the year that these tools developed and were used by more people, 2011 will be the year that more brands use them, where appropriate, in a way that adds value. We should see more location-based marketing and more innovation with these tools.

Innovation means both doing old things in new ways, but also doing new things altogether. Whilst there is a role for using location-based services to distribute vouchers and discounts (of the ‘check in here and get 10% off’ variety), location-based services can and should be used for so much more. The trend in 2011 should be for experimentation and trying completely new things, things that we can only do because we know where people are.

3) The rise and rise of the social graph

The social graph has yet to be used effectively by many brands. We’re seeing some innovation - such as the use of Facebook’s social graph on Amazon.com to tell you when it is a friend’s birthday and suggest books they might like based on their Facebook profile. But such uses are rare at the moment.

The real opportunity for the social graph to bring social elements to an existing website - allowing a brand to pull the best and most useful information and relaitonships from Facebook and other sites to their own site. In doing so they break the argument there has often been between engaging on platforms like Facebook or on your own site. With social graph you can engage people offsite and onsite using the same data.

4) We should all be talking about value from social media

As brands spend more on social media, they will be forced to prove the value they are getting from this spend. This will move us from measuring what can be measured (Twitter followers, traffic etc) and working out how these show benefit, to having to show the business benefit that is being realised by using social media. It may be a reduction in contact-centre calls because you are servicing customers online, it may be an increase in spend per year from those customers you are engaging online, or it may be direct sales you can attribute to activities in social media.

2011 will see brands building models and showing the value that they are getting from their expenditure on social media. We will move from measuring what can be measured to showing value.

5) Social media is not just about marketing

Finally social media has always been about much more than just marketing. It is about communications, public relations, customer service, insight, new product development. In fact there are many areas of a brand that can benefit from engaging with people through social media. And the areas where a brand can realise most value may not be in marketing but in other areas. 2010 has seen increased discussion of ‘social business’ - where social is used across a business, changing processes, products and services to bring more value to the brand and to consumers. In 2011 we will hear much more about social business, and probably less about social media marketing.

Why we’ll all be talking about the value of social media in 2011

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337/365: The Big Money
Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

The debate and discussions about measuring social media, and those about social media ROI, often focus more on what can be measured than on the value that social media is creating for a brand. Over the last few years as brands have been experimenting with social media this is not unexpected. When we go through periods of innovation and experimentation we always tend to explore and discover the new tools we are using. But as social media has become more mainstream for brands, both as part of the marketing mix and more broadly across the business, we need to move from discussing the things we can measure to the things we should measure. From measurements to the actual value that social is adding to a brand.

Measuring and then evaluating the value that social is adding to a brand will be different from brand to brand. They are using social in different ways, across different parts of their business and are used to measuring value in different ways. There is not one solution, a panacea for all our social media measurement ills. Things are more complicated than that. However, this does not mean that we cannot measure the value we are having when we use social media. And as social media has moved from innovation and experimentation to more mainstream we need to take a more mainstream approach to value. And we need to talk about what we are measuring and the value social is creating.

There are many things that are not examples ‘value’ from social media - a large number of followers on Twitter or Likes on Facebook for example, or a large number of visits to an online community. Such things, whilst easy to measure, are not, in themselves, examples of business value. It is relatively easy to get more Likes of your brand on Facebook (running Facebook advertising being one obvious example), and this may open up more people you can broadcast your messaging to via their wall, but business value comes not from having Likes, but from what these people do for you. Brands and social media agencies need to talk more about this, about what their social media is doing for them and the value it is adding.

Now that social is a mainstream part of business, value should be expressed in more mainstream terms. We should be talking about things such as a lowered cost of new customer acquisition, and increased lifetime value of customer, a reduction in average customer serving costs, increased customer satisfaction, or greater brand awareness. We should be talking about actual value to the business rather than social media measurements. We should be talking about why we started using social in the first place and the impact it is having across the business

There are many things we can and should measure, but in 2011 the conversation will be about the value social is adding to a brand. Brands should be talking internally in these terms and they should expect any social media agency that works with them to be talking in these terms too.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.