There has been a lot of discussion lately about the measurement of social media and its return on investment (ROI). The expectation for 2010 is that we’ll see corporations large and small begin to clamp down on any social media marketing (SMM) spending that does not contribute to profits.
The big problem of course is that no one can really measure the ROI for SMM effectively. Yet deep down, everyone knows that social media is a vital technology that every business must somehow now leverage in order to stay competitive.
Social media at its foundation is simply a new means of communication via technology that offers us conversational capabilities. Social media is an evolution in conversation technology that started with its ancestors; the telegraph, the telephone, email, and instant messaging. The key word being conversation, which is why I didn’t include TV and radio in that list. Sure, your TV is a communication device, but you cannot have a conversation via TV. It is a one-way communication technology.
With this simple understanding of social media being a mere conversational technology, you can begin to break down the five core areas where conversations occur in business. And it is within these five areas that you and your business can find ways to leverage social media effectively:
B2B – Business to Business
Businesses communicate with other businesses in countless ways. It could be with your suppliers, your clients, your vendors, the list goes on. Using social media in this area allows you to build up an enormous network of contacts that you would have never found otherwise. Or perhaps more importantly, build up a network of contacts with other businesses that would have never found you.
Such conversations could lead to discoveries that reduce complexity in the supply chain or reveal a lower priced vendor or lead the combination of resources to improve economies of scale. And that has enormous value.
B2C – Business to Consumer
Businesses have always had ways to communicate with consumers. In marketing however, this has typically been a one-way communication by way of advertising, whether it be print, radio, TV, or Web. In other words, not a conversation with the consumer.
In sales the story is a little different. Sales people have always had conversations with consumers. That’s how you sell things. Well the good news for both marketing and sales is that social media changes the game and in a good way.
Marketers can now have conversations directly with consumers in ways that were not possible before. The days of push marketing are giving way to conversational marketing. And since this is a brand new thing, we’re still discovering how this will unfold and where it will take us.
And with marketing sending all that awareness, conversation, and PR into the social media sphere, the sales staff can now take their conversations to the next level as well. If you haven’t heard of someone making a sale via Facebook or Twitter connections and conversations, you soon will. And that has enormous value.
C2B – Consumer to Business
Typically, when someone thinks of consumer to business contacts they think of customer service. For decades now it has been a given that if you call a business, you’ll first be greeted by their customer service department. Or more likely, their automated customer response system. A lucky few may have a direct phone number to their sales representative.
And no consumers at all would be able to reach someone from marketing. That just doesn’t happen. Well it does now.
Social media now opens up a virtual floodgate for consumers to communicate with your business. And not just to customer service. And if you are there to greet them in the social media sphere you’ll see increased consumer sentiment and satisfaction, higher engagement with your brand and brand awareness spreading all over the place. And that has enormous value.
C2C – Consumer to Consumer
This is a big one for social media. Sure, for as long as businesses have existed consumers would talk to other consumers about their experiences with the product or services they purchased, or of those that they are thinking of purchasing. But in the social media sphere this conversation is no longer locked up in email or IM’s or privately shared over a cup of coffee.
This conversation is now everywhere to almost everyone and in real time for all to see and hear. And if that kind of conversation is about your business, whether good or bad, you’ve just won the marketing lottery. And that has enormous value.
E2E – Employee to Employee
This area doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves, but it soon will. In the past, the best ways for employees to communicate and exchange ideas with each other has been through email, sometimes IM, and often through face to face meetings and telephone. Social media inside the organization is about to take that conversation and collaboration from 1 on the volume dial all the way to 11.
This will have an effect on your organization, whether it is 5 people or 50,000 people. Using tools like Yammer your employees will benefit in dozens of ways, from training to corporate culture, from cross-silo discoveries to network building, from virtual team collaboration to information dissemination – the benefits are numerous and powerful. And that has enormous value.
So there you have it. The five core values of social media technology for business.
Any business that can find ways to participate and listen in to of all of these social media conversations will stay on top of their game. The ROI may be immeasurable, but the value is unquestionable.
Are you leveraging all five?