Archive for November 2009
When I ask people in Pennsylvania about their social marketing strategies, so many tell me that they don’t see any use for Facebook and Twitter. Some share that their companies block social media sites for various reasons not the least of which is that careless use of social media can let viruses through the firewall. Using social media also invites smooth, effective phishing that claims a lot of users’ log-in credentials. Considering the risks, it makes sense for companies to block access. Of course, companies in PA aren’t unique; resistence to social media is common in companies around the world.
I don’t advocate unbridled use of social media throughout a company, nor do I advocate against it. (In my company, we’d find a way to allow social media access to anyone using computers, but that doesn’t make it right for your company.) I do advocate responsible use of social media in your marketing activities. In fact, companies that don’t quickly develop social marketing strategies and put them in action are going to fall behind their competitors.
Who Should use Social Media?
Fine, your company blocks access to social media. But your company must not forbid the use of social media. Consider: your company probably doesn’t encourage employees to read newspapers during business hours. Still, your marketing department may use newspaper advertising as a marketing tactic. Or, more absurdly: your company may use forklifts in the warehouse and shipping areas, but it would be silly and potentially catastrophic to put a forklift in every office and cubicle.
Therein lies the foundation for responsible use of social media in marketing. Put social media in the hands of people who should have it: your marketing department. Get them up to speed on acceptable use, and have them build social marketing strategies that will advance your business.
The social marketing plan that results may (and almost certainly should) require participation from people beyond the marketing department. The marketing plan must define how all participants use social media, and it must lay down rules for what users can and can’t do.
I coach companies to allow no use of Facebook applications without approval from the marketing plan coordinator. I also insist that companies teach about phishing and present users with examples of phishing emails and tweets to inoculate them against giving up login credentials or other potentially damaging information.
As with any business tool, don’t simply hand social media to every person in your company and expect to benefit from it. Rather, create a plan, train the appropriate personnel, and provide access as-needed.
While more and more companies adopt social marketing strategies to lower costs and improve the quality of their outreach, even more companies are completely missing the opportunity. I read a want ad recently placed by a continuing care facility, and it motivated me to write the following response. The ad made no mention at all that candidates for the advertised position should be familiar with web sites let alone with social media. My response applies as well to nearly every business looking for a marketing specialist:
You have advertised a marketing position for a continuing care community. You’re looking for someone who is personable, creative, and flexible and who can represent your organization well. You ask for candidates having computer skills so they can produce advertising materials such as brochures, newsletters, and press releases. Wouldn’t you like to do better than that?
While traditional marketing approaches are still important, particularly for reaching a local audience, companies that are not developing on-line social marketing strategies are losing to their competitors. With 418 people joining Facebook every minute, people are getting to know companies through social networking before doing business with them. We’re quickly reaching a time when a company will not be effective at attracting customers if it doesn’t have a strong presence in online social media.
But, you object, people looking for continuing care facilities aren’t so computer-savvy; they’re not shopping on-line for a business like ours. This objection reflects your bias, but it doesn’t reflect reality. According to a recent Pew survey, the fastest-growing segment of Twitter users over a nine-month period was people aged 55 to 64. As you’re already aware, many aging Americans involve their offspring in making major life decisions… and those offspring rely increasingly on the Internet and their social networks for guidance.
From your ad, it seems as though on-line social marketing strategies are not in your thinking. That’s a shame. The continuing care facilities that hire social marketing strategists and get started on-line are going to thrive. Continuing care facilities who do not adopt social marketing strategies will struggle to understand why they can’t compete.
Best of luck!