As enterprise marketers, part of our role is to look forward into the future to see what’s ahead in the next 12-24 months, possibly even longer. What’s coming down the pipeline that directly impacts our brand, our customers and our ability to positively influence profitable growth for our organization?
Although it’s relatively easy to stay on top of technology trends and select which ones to invest in, the big question isn’t necessarily what to use–it’s how to use it. A prime example? Social media.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know about social media–and you’re likely using it regularly, both for yourself and your company and clients. That being said, have we really become “social” through social media? Or did we simply add one more channel to our marketing mix without understanding the message and power behind it? I often wonder if we’ve missed something big in our rush to get ahead of the social media curve.
The Social Approach
Big corporations have done a 180-degree turn in the last five years. We’ve gone from controlling/ignoring customers to being distinctly aware of every sneeze or cough they make in our direction, all thanks to social media. In a way, social media forced us to “own up” to how we were treating people on whom we depend. And in many cases, it affected our go-to-market strategy both positively and negatively. The big win, however, was that social media brought with it a bright, new perspective for engaging customers as an enterprise.
In your own experience with social media, you’ve probably realized that the secret to success doesn’t lie in social media as a channel, but instead as an approach to the customer. It’s not what we do, but how we do it, that matters. And, in fact, it’s your social approach that matters most.
Better Flexibility and Better Integration
The two key benefits to a social approach are:
Better strategic flexibility: By adopting a social approach, you take a big step closer to the future of the social enterprise. Your strength becomes your ability to be social with customers through all channels, not just social media. If social media disappears or evolves, you stay strong, nimble and connected.
Better integration with marketing and other departments in the enterprise: A social approach influences policy, content and how we attract and keep customers. It is more than a mere aspect of our brand, and its positive benefits extend well beyond marketing to help create that holistic, positive customer experience we want to deliver.
Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?
The big risk of maintaining a laser focus on social media rather than crafting and integrating a comprehensive social approach is that we become slaves to the channel rather than becoming masters of social engagement. What happens when social media evolves, or, worse, fades out altogether?
Impossible to think that? That’s what the folks who made the fax machine and VHS tapes thought in the ’80s and ’90s, too. While it’s certain the social customer is here, social media’s existence is something that’s left in constant question.
One thing is clear: the media we use to communicate with our customers (and they to us!) is going to continue to evolve rapidly with or without us. Instead, you need an approach that allows you to adapt to any channel, rather than having the channel dictate your strategy. Further, as the social customer evolves, we remain connected and relevant though all channels, rather than just one.
Is the social media tail wagging your strategic dog?
Jeff Wilson is a marketing futurist and customer acquisition specialist. For over 15 years, Jeff’s work has assisted many leading global B2B and B2C enterprises in significantly improving how they attract and engage prospective customers to turn them into profitable relationships. Past clients include HP, IBM, Home Depot, ING Direct, Symantec and Syngenta. You can find Jeff on Twitter at @jeffthesensei.
Photo by kirainet via Creative Commons