Social media is easy. Really, it is. Send a tweet. Build a Facebook page. Let your website visitors pin your content. It’s very easy. We see companies executing these initiatives every day. But, a collection of social media initiatives, is not social media at scale.
Social media at scale? Yes, social media at scale. A Facebook page is not social media at scale. Getting approval to launch a YouTube channel is not social media at scale. Social media at scale doesn’t come from a hired gun,the Social Media for Dummies book or by creating a social media department. It also doesn’t come from hiring head of social media for your company. Mind you, these aspects help, but they aren’t the answer or the silver bullet so many people are looking for.
Have you ever seen a duck on a pond? They look ever graceful as they “glide” across the water. But, if you could see what the situation looks like under the water, you’d see the utter chaos of feet moving rapidly. Without the chaos, that you don’t see, you wouldn’t appreciate the smooth nature of the duck’s movement on the surface. That’s very akin to a true social business culture. The output of a social business culture, is one that impresses. It wows. It seems effortless. It’s the organizations that have a real social business culture that are driving social media at scale.
This isn’t rhetoric. This isn’t theory. Unlike the results you’d get from Google, after typing in “social media expert,” my advice is grounded in real world experience of actually turning social media from a plaything, into something that scales.
So, with that said, and believe me, I realize how bold that last sentence sounded, let me break down the 4 key elements to making social scale.
1. Define Social: Strip away the word “media” and focus on what “social” means. Social is more than marketing, it’s more than media. But, what it means to each organization, based on your business objectives (yes, business objectives) varies. This seems simple, but it’s incredibly difficult and time consuming. Here’s why it’s important: let’s say, you’re a national retailer, and part of your organization’s DNA, is exceptional service. Well, the question shouldn’t be, do we need to be on twitter, it should be, how will social help us deliver on “exceptional service?” When you ask that question, you end discussing critical elements like how do we enable our customers to ask us questions on their terms? And you might end up with, twitter as the platform, via unique twitter handles for each concierge provider. That’s focus. That’s working across your origination. That’s making social scale.
2. Horizontal Beats Vertical: One of the biggest mistakes in building a business designed to drive social at scale, is the burning desire to build a social media organization. That organization then reports through some other function like marketing, PR, eCommerce, etc. This is akin to ad agency models used circa 2000, where agencies built separate digital agencies to compliment their “traditional” agencies. That model ultimately failed, because, it’s not sustainable, because experiences span channels, because margins couldn’t sustain redundancy and because we shifted to wanting integrated marketing. Coming out of key element #1, hopefully you see that social is more than marketing. If it’s more than marketing, you need social spread out across the organization, in a horizontal fashion, not put on an island and built vertically. An individual can’t scale. A dedicated team can’t scale. But, when social is built horizontally and woven throughout an organization, your “team” scales, because in essence, your social team, could be the entire company.
3. Talent Model: I believe the best people to lead and drive social are those who are marketers, that know digital who love social. Digest that for a second. When you hire real marketers, people who understand elements like connection planning, buyer behavior and margins, you start from a business foundation. And let’s be honest, if your social efforts aren’t driving the business, you probably shouldn’t be investing in social. But, you can’t stop there. It’s not good enough to just be a marketer; you need to know digital. Why? Because, the majority of social business integration is going to involve digital on some level and digital is fast becoming the primary consumption and connection vehicle for consumers. In social, a marketer who doesn’t know digital, is the equivalent of having a 2-legged stool. To be fair, so are digital people who don’t know or appreciate marketing. If you have a marketer that knows digital, you’re close. But, you need the last layer; the love for social. There’s a certain geeky-ness needed to thrive in social and make it scale. The person who loves social, stays on top of the space, they aren’t daunted when an organization puts up roadblocks and they have the passion to see something through to the end. One of the best hires I ever made in social, had a behavioral economics background. That meant, he understood why people do, what they do. He also had a solid background in digital, but loved social. If you start at the opposite end of this model, if you lead with social, then digital, then marketing, you’ll end up with a string of one-off tactics, and one-off tactics, don’t scale.
4. Standardize and Optimize: These are two very important words. You’ll use them often. To make social scale you need to standardize your language, partners, platforms, protocols, measurement approach and many other variables. Why? Because, when someone asks a relatively simple question like, what’s our social brand sentiment, you don’t want to have 4 answers from 4 platforms. Four different answers, leads to debates, which creates doubt, which impedes scale. While standardization is critical, you can’t simply set it and forget it. As your organization, the consumer and the space evolves, you need to continue optimizing those critical foundational elements.
There’s so much more than just the 4 key elements I outlined above. But, that’s why social at scale is tough, and only a few organizations are delivering social at scale.