In many ways, 2011 was a fulfilling one for social media marketers/managers. Many companies finally “get it”-they acknowledge that social media is real and it’s not going away. The main social media platforms, led by Facebook, continued to grow. Twitter didn’t explode. Google launched Google+. Social content became a very big deal for marketers, and so on.
These are all important. But somehow it feels like we fell short, sort of like we marched to the 50 yard line of the big game and stalled. Some companies kept running the same plays, hoping for different results. Others tried Hail Mary passes.
After years of this, we still haven’t revolutionized the way we communicate as companies and/or come close to reaching our potential with social media.
As I’ve said before, we haven’t reinvented anything; we’ve mainly shoehorned social media into our corporate communications/marketing framework. We’re still doing everything the same, just in new channels, disguised as social media. (ex: “Give me 8 tweets this week” “Let’s shoot for 3 blogs a week, and make sure they stay on message”)
Social media isn’t a set of tactics, sewed together to be presented like a strategy. We need to go beyond the mechanics to truly understand how social media works — how it can help us connect with customers and other audiences.
2012 could be the year we finally break through this infancy stage and revolutionize business communications across the board. But a lot of work remains to be done. Here’s a starting list of suggestions, my own wish list for companies and social media marketers:
1. Focus on our customers: What if we quit thinking just like marketers, and more like our audiences? What keeps them up at night? What drives them? What is their view of your company and services-and how can you leverage that and/or change it? This is why listening programs are so potent-skimp on them at your own risk.
2. Build “A-teams”: Imagine being surrounded by power-hitters- subject matter experts who know their stuff and are encouraged by their companies to participate in social media-maybe its even part of their jobs. All we have to do is provide a little training and point them in the right direction. Sure, provide some editorial support, but let them do the real talking. Strive for true voices and authenticity.
3. Think outside the box: We need to think outside the box, way outside the box. Innovation is lacking with most of our programs. Are there other, more creative ways to be heard? (Look at what Coca-Cola did with its recent “honesty campaign” in Portugal). How would Steve Jobs, a scientist or an artist approach your issues?
4. Turn down noise:Personally, we need to turn down the noise. We’re bombarded by noise and “news” every minute. Many of us try to keep up with every new program, every twitch of the social media universe. Never let a tweet go unanswered. We try to do too much, and find ourselves scattered too thinly to succeed.Instead, what if we were allowed to focus on a few core areas that we can understand, work with and have an impact–starting with where our audiences hang out (if that’s Twitter, for example, start there). Set clear management expectations and tune out everything else. Then set up a clear schedule so we can batch our social media efforts, say 1 to 2 hrs a day of social activity in targeted channels.
5. Take risks: Speaking of the late Steve Jobs, what if we took a few more lessons from his amazing run at Apple? He was a creative genius who took huge eye-popping, but calculated risks going back to his high school days, when he was ready to borrow $50,000 to join with another partner to launch a company (it never happened but showed his true colors). His launching of the iPod, iPhone and iPad all represented sizable risks on several fronts (how long had companies tried and failed to get a tablet market off the ground?)
Our company cultures need to embrace more of this kind of risk taking. Identify our super brains, give them some training and unleash them. If they stumble or cross the party line, well, too bad-that’s what social media is about.
Oh, and that’s one last wish-companies that are tolerant. Social media can be messy at times. Mistakes will happen when humans are interacting in natural ways. Get over it.
What would you like to see change in 2012 to drive social media to the next level in corporate America?