Social Media is a not so new hot topic, wherever you are and whoever you are, we seem to be inundated with information from people via social networks. The success of these networks means that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have, almost inevitably, been seized upon by people at the forefront of marketing and sales as a way to reach a captivated audience.
Evangelists of Social Media insist our customers and potential clients are out there just waiting for our latest Tweet. While I agree Social Media can be a wonderful medium to reach customers and potential clients I would warn anyone to use it wisely and well or don’t use it at all as social media can break brands just as quickly as it makes them!
Here’s the nightmare scenario as described in an article by the BBC “not long ago the communications team of a multinational retailer was taken by surprise when journalists called to ask about huge technical problems in half their UK stores. The team did not monitor Twitter and hadn’t heard about the crisis; the journalists did and had.” This is a situation many of us will undoubtedly be faced with in the future, if our customers are on social networks and are actively engaged about our product we must follow suit and lead those discussions as failure to do so can cause irreparable damage.
For those of us who require further proof that Social Networks wield power over companies more now than ever before my favourite example is the story of Dave Carroll with United Breaks Guitars. I am sure you have heard the story but a quick synopsis is Dave travelled on United Airlines, he saw the baggage handlers throw his guitar, he landed, the $3000 guitar was broken, he spent 9 months complaining and heard nothing back so he created a music video on you tube, United are now very sorry but have no idea how to handle its success or the damage to their brand.
The lesson here is that to succeed with social media companies need to be able to understand, analyse and utilise the information on these networks to allow them to develop a new business and sales channel but also to improve business decisions and customer experience. The first hurdle is the fact that many social media tools are poorly integrated into the corporate workflow, by far the most popular request I seem to be receiving from my customers is to be able to use social media while pulling its content into some sort of central repository in their CRM or ERP application.
Luckily tools exist to aid with this integration. A great example of a situation is when a Microsoft Sharepoint user adds a product to the ERP system database, a workflow is launched for the marketing manager who can then reformat the message and choose the timing of the Tweet and Linked In updates. This can also be done for FaceBook.
This is just one use case and makes sense for companies that add new products and services all the time such as bookstores, training companies, catalog retailers, etc.. but the same logic applies across all industries and social media. Tools exist that allow you to integrate your back office systems with the world of Social media to ensure your foray into social networking is a success.