Why the smart money is on social media ‘readiness’ programs

Like websites back in the 1990s, social media has finally found the grudging acceptance of mainstream businesses. Once the ‘pretty bauble’ of the marketing department, social media is now seen as integral to customer service, brand awareness, and generating revenue, with CEOs finally loosening the purse strings to invest in proper social media programs.

But does this mean the risks of social media that for so long kept smart bosses wary have finally gone away? Not at all. If anything, the risks have increased. So why am I seeing the traditionally risk averse insurance and finance sectors leading the charge to social media enablement? The answer is in social readiness programs. The transformation has been slow, but as companies have accepted that social media has benefits that outweigh the risks, the ‘pretty bauble’ has been brought into overall business planning. What does that mean? It means companies now include social media in broader operational planning and strategy development, rather than tack it onto the end of a marketing campaign.

Social media isn't about pulling rabbits out of hats. It's about planning ...

Social media isn’t about pulling rabbits out of hats. It’s about planning …

This shift has largely been driven by consumers themselves, those social media junkies who have dragged the corporate world around to their way of thinking. It’s no longer enough for a brand to simply post clever memes and 10% off discount coupons on their Facebook page. Social media users demand a meaningful, two way relationship with the brands they engage with. And they will reward those brands who comply, and punish those who don’t. This has forced companies to respond accordingly, with many seeing their social media profiles become the first point of contact for customer service enquiries. This has forced a rethink on how to deliver a better customer experience via multiple service channels. It’s seen the likes of Oracle and Salesforce vie to develop customer service software to meet this new need, with Oracle by far outstripping its rivals with its new ‘cloud services solutions’, a suite of software doing everything from managing customer complaints, to analysing consumer social media sentiment, to creating a single customer view of their target audiences.

In all of this activity, corporates find themselves needing to enable effective processes to manage how social media fits within the broader spectrum of the company’s day-to-day activities. My company OBVIAM has been working with global brands on achieving safe, profitable outcomes from their social media activity, and it all starts with social readiness. Here’s a few tips:

Social Readiness Audit: this is where you put actual data to work for you. It’s no use guessing how ready your business and your customers are for social media. You need to use cold hard data for effective planning. Social monitoring software such as Oracle SRM, Hootsuite, Radian6 and others provides you with critical insights into how your brand is perceived, what your customers are saying about you, and what your competitors are up to. Running a 2-3 month social listening program will give you valuable insights into your marketplace, and tell you which social profiles will work best for achieving your social media goals. It will also tell you what those goals can realistically be.

Internal Readiness Audit: this is where you define the skills level of your workforce and allocate permissions and authorisation to conduct social media activity. Clearly defining who will run a social program (marketing, customer service, both?) and how each team interacts to deliver a seamless customer experience is critical to success. The more successful your social media marketing, the greater the impact on your customer service team. Establishing clear lines of responsibility and communication, plus crisis management strategies in the event of a problem, will ensure workloads remain manageable and workflow bottlenecks will be avoided. It’s also important to understand any compliance issues that need to be taken into account. Insurers and financial services providers have regulations and legislation around privacy which need to be considered. Other industries have similar requirements, and you can bet your last dollar it will be the compliance team who veto any activity if they haven’t been first consulted. An internal audit will also identify the skill level of available staff, recommend training and education if required, and identify the role requirements and headcount requirements of any new staff who may be needed.

Executive Team Buy-in: most executives push back on social media citing three common fears: risk to brand reputation; unknown resourcing requirements; how will the program generate more money? Running a readiness audit based on actual data will answer these questions. It will ensure the executive team can make decisions based on quantifiable facts, rather than enthusiastic speculation.

Systems and Processes Audit: how will a social media program impact existing systems, such as your customer relationship management system, or marketing automation and email platforms? Any successful social media program will need to have a social listening platform enabled to facilitate the capture of data and insights which will help measure the all important ROI. So which platform is the right platform? Knowing what other systems are already in place, and how potential social platforms will engage with such systems can help you avoid the embarrassing moment during your board presentation when the CTO asks how your favoured system fits in with his back of house procurement software, and what impact it will have on his legacy accounting system.

Content and Messaging Audit: this is critical to success. Social media is no longer just an add-on to other marketing activity. It is a unique, two-way relationship building activity, and as such, you need to get your voice just right. Developing automated, pre-defined responses can help minimise workload, but also ensure consistency of voice and interaction with the consumers. Being able to measure response times and customer satisfaction with your engagement protocols is also vital. Establishing a content calendar with pre-automated posting is an excellent way to minimise workload. We recommend you do a three-month calendar with content to suit your various social profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin etc) and ‘set and forget’. This frees up your time to respond and engage, rather than post and publish.

The above steps are critical elements to establishing the foundation for good social media engagement. These are things you can do yourself, or engage an agency such as OBVIAM to do on your behalf. The one thing you will notice we always recommend, is that all this activity be underpinned by data capture and analysis. Relying on guesswork is what creates social media crises. You can’t afford to take the risk. Enable a social monitoring program at the outset. That’s right, do it first, not last as so many companies have tried. Even if you don’t have company branded social profiles, listening and monitoring will show you what consumers and competitors are doing, and this insight is highly valuable in your own planning.

FOOTNOTE: Shameless plug: OBVIAM is a leader in the development of social media readiness programs, working with global brands such as Samsung, Sportsbet, Microsoft, Dell, Suncorp Bank, Vero, Resilium, AGL Energy, HBF, Australia Post and many others. We operate in APAC out of Sydney and Singapore and can be contacted on enquiries@obviam.co or by phoning +61 2 8226 8576. Check us out at www.obviam.co

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