September 20, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Social Media can be a Boon or a Bust for your Business

Social Media can be a Boon or a Bust for your Business

Marketing and communications within businesses are budget areas. They require money to produce results. To understand and to verify that budgets are delivering results, businesses measure return on their investment (ROI) using a variety of metrics tied to goals. In marketing and communications, those goals should include ROI from returning customers as well as new customers. To achieve ROI, marketing and communications departments develop strategic plans that include not only measurable goals but strategies and tactics to achieve those goals. The tactics feature media tools, such as advertising, direct marketing, and public relations.
Today, businesses need also consider Social Media tools, such as blogs, vlogs (videos) and podcasts (broadcasts). But before integrating social media tools, businesses must first ask themselves the why, what, and how questions. Those questions will look like these:
1. Why should we invest in social media?
2. What’s in it for us?
3. How do we execute on social media effectively?
**Why should we invest in social media?**
The primary reasons for investing in social media are two-fold:
1. The tools offer the most-effective and cost-efficient way to hear what our customers are thinking. By listening to them and responding to their wants and needs, we set up marketing and product research departments without any of the cost normally associated with those departments.
2. The tools represent a great way to share our stories with customers and employees. Social Media, it must be remembered, will fail if they are used to control messaging or to spread typical marketing and sales messages. The tools are designed to share stories and useful information. Use them in those ways, and customers and employees will share valuable ideas and information with you.
**What’s in it for us?**
Social media, if done correctly, will result in a return on investment in a variety of forms, including an increase in loyal customers who buy more and who talk positively about the company; an increase in the ability to produce more innovative and better products and services based on customer feedback; the ability to improve the company at every level, again based on customer feedback; and an increase in new customers as they learn about and come to trust the company.
**How do we execute on social media effectively?**
Among the questions executives ask about social media is where should it be located? Who should launch, manage, and publish the blog(s), vlog(s) and/or podcast(s)? The obvious choices are marketing, public relations, human resources, or communications. However, making the right decision is both critical and complex.
To some extent, the answer lies within the internal structure of the business. Taking the organizational chart into account, to determine where social media should live, a business might ask questions such as these:
1. Who is most likely to understand the use of social media and then to use it in ways that benefit our customers, our employees, and our business most?
2. Who has the time, budget, and expertise to create engaging communications?
3. Who is least likely to use social media to market and sell products?
4. Who is most likely to use social media to draw customers into conversation with us; thereby, developing loyal customers, brand evangelists and new customers who appreciate our efforts to give them a voice?
These questions are the basis for the internal discussion. Whoever the business chooses to host social media, they must be excellent writers, they must be creative, they must have access to everyone within the business, they must be familiar with the customers and the communities in which the business has locations, and they must be trusted as open and honest communicators. Furthermore, they must have the courage and the ability to challenge managers and executives who want to turn social media into a bottom line tool.
My best advice is to study every detail and discuss all the pros and cons. If you decide social media is a good fit for your business, launch the tools internally first. Get employees from every functional area involved, and ask them to be your sounding boards. As in most things, employees know your customers best, and they will contribute incredibly good suggestions and recommendations, if you engage them and give them buy in.
*Lewis Green is the founder and chief communications officer of L&G Business Solutions. He blogs about business and marketing at his blog, [bizsolutionsplus](http://lgbusinesssolutions.typepad.com/). His fifth book is called “Lead With Your Heart.”*

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