Reg has generously lent me his way-more-than-140-characters pulpit to share some observations from the recent IIR Social Media/Communities conference in Boston (#SocialC20). This was a merger of 2 prior conferences, one a social media platform user group and one an MR conference. About 80% of participants came from marketing or PR organizations, so the discussion focused a lot more on social media as a communications, engagement and support channel than as a research channel.
Here are the major themes I heard. Most of these are pretty obvious but I still find it salutary to see what's going through the heads of marketers (and researchers) responsible for this stuff.
- Social not social media; social as air, not a place you go. Social means relationships so when we talk about a "social media strategy" with customers we are really talking about relationship strategy.
- Social is not just changing how companies relate to customers, but how they work internally. And social starts at home. If your company isn't using it internally, you will have trouble using it externally.
- Social is hard because you have to give up control, but you still need to be in command (at times). Charlene Li at Altimeter Group calls this "open leadership," in the context of how social is used inside a company. Her point is that you don't have to be open about everything; every company and every customer relationship will have different requirements in this regard. You determine how open you can be and where.
- Authenticity is scary – especially to legal departments but to marketers as well.
- Measurement matters. Don't engage without a strategy and agreed-upon measure of business value...yet number of Twitter followers rather than type/quality of conversation were cited frequently.
- Experiment and embrace failure. Greg Matthews at Humana: If you're Apple you have to be careful and in any case you probably don't need a community because they exist already, but most brands can afford to experiment a build a crap Facebook page that hardly anyone will notice. Alternately, the strength of a good customer relationship is that you can make a mistake and work through it (Charlene Li at Altimeter Group).
Most companies had formed a social media integration team or committee. These teams tend to have these characteristics:
- Highly cross-functional, cross up to 16 different departments. But mostly driven by marketing, support and (indirectly) legal.
- May not have a leader, but if they do it's invariably someone who is actually using social media and has a semi-religious mission, not just senior or assigned.
- Usually composed of "doer" level; it is a challenge for anyone at the executive level to be a consistent social media presence (Jaime Punishill at Citibank).
A P&G panelist offered a typically dogmatic yet absurdly broad statement about MR. Paraphrased, the comments was: "We need to apply research thoroughness honed over years to social media while making it faster and cheaper. As a client I don't want to have to compromise. Researchers and entrepreneurs are opposite types and that's why MR hasn't innovated fast enough." I haven't the time or energy to parse these statements properly, but I have to say that it points out the commonplace error in thinking that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. Successful entrepreneurs are typically people who are very selective about their risks. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs (a category no one every seems to talk about) are simple risk-takers.
- Theo Downes-Le Guin