“Dear shareholders, I’m pleased to announced that our Twitter followers have increased by 15%”, said no CEO ever.

Marketers know, and have known for a while, that social media offers so much value. But why is it that most business owners, sales, operations and finance managers don’t see it?

I think that as marketers we can only point the blame at ourselves.

The Social Media credibility challenge is a self-perpetuating one. Marketing doesn’t show the value of Social Media to the business –> The business doesn’t have the case to invest in Social Media initiatives –> Marketing have less budget to make social work.

How do us Marketers fix this?

Set Objectives The Business Understands

The first thing is we need to do is talk about objectives that the rest of the business understands.

As Marketers, we know that a RT or a share is quite often a digital signal that someone is on the way to converting, but our colleagues in other business functions may not.

The solution is to focus Social Media on metrics like:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Generating or influencing sales pipeline value
  • Reducing operational costs

For anyone who’s had experience with producing a business case for more investment, the key to success is showing a return in financial terms. The same is true of Social Media. As soon as you’re able to demonstrate it will generate a positive ROI, you’ll find that your colleagues in the boardroom will take it seriously.

Choosing Your Platforms Wisely

The decision about where you invest your Social Media resources will largely be led by the objective you set. You’ll also notice that when there’s accountability, your tactics will change too.

All too often, we see businesses tackle Social Media without objectives influencing their choice of platform. What results in most cases is a “create once, publish everyone” plan, which leaves customers confused, and often, disinterested.

When there is a strong direction established with clear objectives, the channel selection becomes a lot simpler:

  • If you decide to use Social Media to reduce the operational cost of providing customer service, and 80% of your audience uses Facebook, your platform choice is obvious.
  • If you sell a business-to-business product or service and your buyers are almost exclusively found in LinkedIn discussion groups, you know that LinkedIn is most likely the platform for you.

Now, it’s possible that your objective may lead you to choose all platforms. That’s OK – choosing all platforms for a clear, compelling reason is fine. Adopting Social Media platforms ‘because you feel you should’ is what leads to issues.

Focusing Efforts

With a clear objective, and the right choice of platforms, the next thing a marketer needs to do is focus the efforts of the team.

This focus should also extend beyond the marketing team. Developers, agencies, sales, operations and finance need to be included. “Why?” I hear you ask.

Social applications often need integrating with other business systems. Or websites need to be able to include social functionality (a simple example being ‘share’ buttons). This is where you developers come in. Developers operate in what they call “resource constrained environments”. Basically they don’t have enough time in the day! If your development requests are focused on the right things, and don’t waste time or change suddenly, everyone’s happy.

The same principle applies to the other business functions:

  • They need to know how to handle the leads or enquiries you’re generating through LinkedIn, or Twitter, for example.
  • Does your new strategy mean that business operations need to adapt? For example, can customers self-service through Social Media?
  • Social is often really, really fast moving. Do your procurement and budgeting processes allow you to react to opportunities just as fast?

Being Agile

The last point above is an example of how the pace of Social and the pace of your business can sometimes be at odds with each other.

Marketers, especially those with print, out-of-home or TV experience, will be used to lengthy planning processes, long delivery schedules and a paralysing necessity to get it right first time.

None of these traits help with trying to adapt to managing Social Media. In fact, the two are almost polar opposites. Social media means:

  • Planning time measured in minutes
  • Delivery time measure in seconds
  • Getting it right often takes a few iterations

The additional headache that Social Media brings is the fact the Marketer is often not in control of the agenda. In Social, the audience sets the agenda — they control what’s hot or not.

Fear not, there are coping tactics that can help (note: I didn’t say fix). Two of the things I’d recommend strongly would be:

  1. Regular monitoring. The more you listen to what your audience likes and what resonates with them, the more you can predict the unexpected.
  1. Plan for the likely. The famous example here is Oreos. They knew something was going to happen around the 2013 SuperBowl. They didn’t know what specifically, but they were confident something was going to be worth responding to. They gathered creative, social, marketing, and the right decision makers in a ‘war room’, poised, just waiting for the moment to react. So, when the lights failed and the stadium plunged into darkness, their “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet was live in minutes. Their preparation earned enough social engagement and PR attention to rival those advertisers spending millions of dollars for an ad-slot during the half-time show. All that attention cost them was time, and possibly a pizza or two.

Measuring in the Right Way

This article isn’t the place to talk about Attribution Modelling, but it is worth noting that it’s important to set clear KPIs and goals linked to your overall Social Media objective.

Remembering that your CEO or CFO, won’t care about Likes or Shares, it’s important that you measure Social Media in a way that represents value in a way the business can understand.

You might still choose to measure things like Cost Per Engagement, but it would be wise to include things like:

Lead generation objectives: Number of leads with a social source

Revenue: Revenue with a social point of influence

Operational efficiency: Customer complaint call time reduction

Fixing a Social Media Credibility Challenge Starts with Objectives

As you might have noticed, there was a common theme running through here: Everything starts with setting the right objective.

Having the right objective in place helps you choose the right platforms, the right areas to focus your resources, and how to measure success.

Bonus Add-on Thought: Starting Out With Social

Even with the best strategy in the world, not every business will be ready to invest heavily in Social Media. Sometimes you need to prove it on a smaller scale.

This is where Social Media has one main advantage over other marketing channels: The cost of entry is relatively low.

With the right thinking, enough planning and a willingness to try new things, a Social Media campaign can be up and running surprisingly quickly with a modest budget.

Just to be brutally clear though, I can’t emphasise enough the part where I mention “right thinking and enough planning”. The risk in getting Social Media wrong, even on a small scale, is that it may make people think of your brand in a way that you didn’t expect.