From the Desk of the Director

Author: Kim Patton

To tweet or not to tweet? 

You really don’t have a choice in today’s market.  Your company is participating in social media, whether you want to or not.  It is amazing how quickly a message about a company’s product or service – good or bad – can spread across the world.  Before the age of social media, if a consumer liked a product, he or she would tell one to five people. If the consumer didn’t like the product, the number increased to maybe 10. Today, however, one individual with a strong opinion could reach upwards of a million people – using 140 characters or less.  Social media allows companies to listen to and engage with their target markets like never before.  It can turn your customers into a community and your fans into a culture.

There have been many success stories where small businesses to large corporations have effectively used social media to grow their products and services. One example is the Crème Brulee Cart in San Francisco.  Curtis Kimball operates a street-food cart and has more than 12,000 followers on Twitter.  Street-food cart vendors never know exactly where they are going to be on any given day.  Kimball tweets his location and flavor of the day each morning.  With no marketing budget, Kimball has been able to use Twitter to accumulate thousands of fans.  As for a large corporation success story, no one can argue that Starbucks has one of the best social media plans.  Starbucks has 10 million-plus fans on Facebook (close to surpassing Lady Gaga) and nearly 1 million followers on Twitter.  Starbucks effectively advertises coupons on Facebook and spreads news of new items coming soon on Twitter.  This strategy helps to drive consumers to the Starbucks website ( July 17, 2010).

Companies today must participate in social media.  Ignoring it is a huge detriment to the company.  To quote the website of Trivera, a firm dedicated to smart design and creative technology, “Social media is bouncing your brand reputation around the market like a beach ball at a rock concert( If you are going to take control of the beach ball, you need to become part of the dialogue floating in the social media space. 

This leads me to my next question: Does your company have a strategy to use the right tools and tactics to be positioned correctly in the social media marketplace? 

According to Chris Remington (ND MSA ’95), VP of Client Strategy & Business Development for Trivera, there are five things every company should consider when developing a social media strategy.  First, make sure your first-tier marketing, especially your website, is very compelling before you branch out to social media.  Second, identify your company’ social media goals and identify the right audience to participate. For example, a financial firm may not need 10,000 ‘followers’ or ‘friends’ and instead might seek out 200 thought leaders and influencers in their target audience. Third, make sure your social media reinforces the corporate brand and its voice.  Fourth, each company needs to decide which employee(s) will be empowered to be the social media contact(s).  These employees need to know how they are to interact with social media and guidelines should be given.  Fifth, the time commitment factor is crucial.  Companies committed to social media should ensure resources can commit the time needed to execute the strategy, for example, post three blogs per week; tweet two times a day; and so on.  Silence causes consumers to lose interest and possibly causes them to post negative comments.

Additionally, social media can help companies deal with bad press, or antagonistic fans, followers or bloggers.  If your company is experiencing negative publicity, Remington says that you must first figure out the nature of the problem.  For example, if a consumer complains online that he is having a hard time assembling your company’s product, your social media representative could combat that by responding with the link to your company’s YouTube video on how to assemble the product.  This shows your company is interested in helping its consumers.

But it’s not enough just to keep up with social media; you need to look to the new trends in social media marketing.  It’s important for companies to understand how social media will evolve especially with today’s erratic consumers.  A recent article in the October 2010 issue of theTrend Letter addresses predictions in social media marketing for 2012 and beyond.  Freddie Laker, director of digital strategy for Asia at SapientNitro, indicates we will see more of new social tools and services, content, collaboration, machine intelligence and social connections; and less of privacy, single-destination websites, desired exclusivity, real relationships and direct-only marketing (  Keeping up with the trends in social media only will help your company and keep your customers loyal, and result in a great return on your investment.

So which ROI on social media do you choose?  Risk of Ignoring or Return on Investment?