Social media is a relatively new frontier and with that comes mystery, misconceptions and a moving target. Listening to the questions our clients have had with managing their social media programs and the growing importance of this facet of business, I reached out to a good friend and highly respected expert Craig Howe, the founder of RocketXL, to answer a few questions for me and provide some uncommon sense advice around social media. Here’s what we talked about:
What should every CEO know about social media?
Social Media is not a magic bullet. You can’t make something go viral because you want it to. You can’t instantaneously activate your social fan base to go buy product whenever you need a bump in sales at the end of a quarter. You can’t guarantee a boost in TV ratings by telling your fans and followers to watch the season finale. What you can do is ensure that your social media team is maximizing a brand’s digital community for an opportunity to assist in key business objectives. Every CEO should know (and insist) that their good social media team is constantly tuning, tweaking, experimenting, and measuring everything they do, so that when a magic bullet is needed, there’s a solid recommendation on how social media can play a role in helping to accomplish that objective.
What questions should every CEO ask his CMO about social media?
How does our social media strategy layer into our key business objectives? What metrics are we using to determine the effectiveness of our efforts? Is there a clear path or strategy in place to monetize our social channels in some way, shape, or form? And most importantly, do we have the right internal and external resources to effectively meet the needs of every consumer who’s taking the time to interact with our social media presence? If the answer to that last question is no, then you’ve got a problem.
What are the brilliant basics every company should be doing today around social media?
When you boil it down, social media is essentially an ongoing telephone conversation between brands and their consumers. When you’re on the phone with someone you want to be interesting, you want to be inquisitive, you want to be compassionate to what someone says on the other end of the line. These things come naturally when we speak with other people. In this sense, the biggest brilliant basic of social media is treating it as if it were a pleasant, never-ending phone conversation with you consumer.
What are the perfect ingredients for success with social media?
The most important ingredients in social media are a solid strategy, healthy usage of data and measurement, and a very clear understanding of how a brand is positioned and communicated. Add to that a heavy dose of creativity, a pinch of humble servitude, and a willingness to always experiment with the smaller ingredients in order to keep your social media presence fresh and relevant.
What are the biggest misconceptions around social media?
The big misconceptions seem to revolve around fear, which is amplified in social media because everything moves at lightning speed. There’s the fear of failure, and the fear of excellence. The fear of failure is hesitating to capitalize on an opportunity through social channels because of red tape or a lengthy internal approval process. The fear of excellence is the opposite, where a brand wants their social statement to be so perfect that they miss a window of opportunity spending too much time trying to be brilliant. As a brand you don’t have to hit a homerun every time, but you’re never going to hit a homerun if you don’t swing. And yes, you may strike out sometimes, but you can’t learn from mistakes you’re too afraid to make.
Who’s doing the most effective job with social media today?
One of my personal favorites is Oreo Cookie. I’m obsessed with their Twitter account. When you can take something as simple as a cookie and devise a strategy that leverages the product in a unique way to pay homage to quirky pop culture events, you’ve done something special.
Who’s getting it wrong?
Anyone who’s stuck operating from a position of fear. It’s less about who’s getting it wrong, and more about who’s missing out on an opportunity to carve out a meaningful social media presence. Paralysis is a death sentence in social media.
Any advice on budget allocation?
Social Media is extremely fragmented. There are a multitude of platforms, software companies, analytics companies, aggregators, agencies, etc. that all claim to be absolutely necessary for social media success. The biggest piece of advice on budget allocation is to spend a considerable amount of time and effort building a savvy, experienced social media leadership team that can ensure that every dollar spent on social media is effectively and efficiently being put to use. The worst mistake I’ve seen made on budget allocation is brands either reassigning someone to social media, or putting a junior person in charge of social media in a panic to establish a presence as quickly as possible. It may seem like a smart solution to avoid increased headcount and recruiting costs, but in the long run this approach often ends up losing money, scale, and efficiency.
Where will social media go next?
Social media has firmly entrenched itself as an anchor vehicle for peer-2-peer and brand-to-consumer communication. In that sense innovation doesn’t lay so much in the next hot platform, killer app, or addicting gamification experience. The two areas of innovation in social media that are significant grounds for change are customization and simplification. The ability to filter out what really matters to me—my likes, wants, needs, sense of humor, favorite places, etc.—and deliver those things to me in the most seamless, engaging, and secure way will unleash a willingness to spend money in social media channels at the speed of social media communication. Reaching this Holy Grail will completely change the way business views the valuation of their social media channels and audience of likes and followers. As someone who’s been passionately working in this space for quite some time, this would be extremely gratifying to see happen.