Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making the case for Social Media

With considerable apologies to this Champion at Digital Ministry

Most social media people get deeply disappointed when their brilliant proposals don't get funded in the budget process. They're convinced that SM represents the chance to reach out to customers, give them a voice, and let loose the dogs of advocacy. But the CFO and other top team members rarely buy it. Why?

  • Language:
Geeks love using jargon because it signifies membership of an elite group of those with the "knowledge", like London taxi drivers or members of some arcane gnostic sect. And social marketers are most often geeks (not technology geeks, but marketing geeks). The words "social media" are a challenge for most people, let alone "blog", "Twitter", "wiki", and "community".

Find other ways to explain yourself - and make maximum effort to do a Dr Dolittle by speaking in languages CEOs, COOs, and CFOs understand. Blogs are a "set of discussions and opinions" that allow customers to respond and present their point of view. A wiki lets "experts contribute information" that is available to all.

A little bit of effort goes a long way - I once explained to a CFO who was an enthusiastic DIY man that "information architecture is a bit like the peg board above your work bench with stencilled places for all your tools". He got it immediately.

  • Extending existing functions:
Many people make the mistake of positioning SM as the latest and brightest toy. For decision-makers that's scary because they think that as a "new initiative" it will require steep learning curves and will be littered with mistakes. In reality, all SM does (for companies) is extend your current functional departments' capabilities. You need to position the idea in terms of how it will deliver efficiency [in, say, customer service]; effectiveness [in, say, brand awareness]; and engagement [via, say, purchase intention].

  • Surveillance:
Armies and law enforcement agencies spend lots of time gathering intelligence. It is vitally important that you do the same. Use Google Alerts and Twitter Search over a month or so to map the buzz around your company, competitors, and industry. Lay out the results in an idiot-proof manner with both quant and qual metrics. For blogs, I use the terms "volume" (number of mentions), "tone" (positive, negative, neutral) and "noise" (competitor mentions). These terms make sense to anyone who has a home stereo system, and you can position your proposal with familiar metaphors.

  • Objectives:
You will need to clearly lay out your goals and some metrics. Look at Jeremiah Owyang's objective mapping - he relates objectives to well-known functions in companies like this:

Listening = Research,
Talking = Marketing,
Energizing = Sales,
Supporting = Customer Support, and
Embracing = R&D (New product development)

If you're thinking the words in bold italics, then this secret decoder key tells you to use the functional descriptors. And once you start using familiar language, the metrics should be self-apparent. So use them.
  • Recognize you're changing the culture:
SM requires companies to embrace two-way conversation instead of one-way messaging. That's a huge challenge for most firms, and runs against most corporate cultures. Understand this, and find ways to re-define the change in terms of the words above. You're not going to get full transparency first time around, so get over it.
  • Point to Success:
There are long lists of who's doing what in the SM space, and plenty of big companies. Someone told me about Peter Kim's list - it's a great start. Search around for some case studies and press releases about some of these initiatives, and point out a few in your proposal. It's even better if you can find some stuff that your competitors are doing.
Thought for the Day: Your proposal won't get funded unless you figure out how to explain it to decision-makers. Think about that in as much depth as your brilliant idea.

No comments: