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Four Social Media Questions Answered

  |  February 3, 2010   |  Comments

The top questions asked by people, corporations, and the media - and some answers that should help you with your social media strategy.

I periodically find it helpful to put together a list of the top questions I'm asked by people, corporations, and the media. Hopefully, you will find my answers helpful.

  1. Do most companies seem to have clear strategies and direction with social media or does it seem like people are still trying to figure out what to do with it and how it can help them?

    Some of the good companies have a clear strategy, while others are just dipping their toe in the water. The key with social media is to fail fast, fail forward, and fail better. You aren't going to get it right the first time, but you aren't going to learn anything if you don't take that first step. The beauty of social media is that your customers are very forgiving and at the same time, helpful at expressing exactly what they need from you as a company. It is the world's largest focus group on steroids.

  2. Do you think most companies will go "in-house" with their social media, or will there still be a place to hire the freelance person who gets paid to tweet, or the consulting firm?

    Since social media touches every facet of the business, it inherently lends itself to the majority being taken in-house. Also, the conversations need to be genuine and it's easier to establish that trust if it's coming from you, not a surrogate. Social media is not an "or," it's an "and" in marketing. Dell recently indicated that they originally had 40 people focused on social media. They soon realized it's not just the 40 people that need to own social media, it's the entire company. Every person, whether it's someone on the phone answering customer service, or any other employee, has a Facebook and Twitter account, and they are representing Dell, whether it is working hours or not.

    While a majority will reside in-house for certain components, it still makes a world of sense to bring in help from a HubSpot, Mari Smith, Chris Brogan, Tamar Weinberg, Kami Huyse, David Meerman Scott, Charlene Li, Sarah Evans, Lee Odden, Brian Breslin, etc.

  3. What, in your view, are the most common ways that corporations have embraced social media? Is it making a Facebook page, sending official tweets, or maybe a mix of things?

    The good companies know a sound social media strategy is much more than a Facebook Fan Page or setting up a Twitter account. However, there are some companies that think putting up only a Facebook Fan Page is a sound social media strategy. The good companies know that social media has to be integrated into everything that they do - it's a part of their overall strategy since it touches every facet of the business.

    I was fortunate to share the stage with Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, which has used social media as a driver to help not only change the external perception of the brand, but also change the internal culture. He was also a recent keynote speaker at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) - this spot is normally reserved for Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc., not a car company CEO. That is a radical change in a short period of time. Ford has shifted its spend from 10 percent digital to 25 percent. Historically, its competition spends less than 10 percent of marketing dollars on digital initiatives. It's no coincidence that Ford hasn't had to take out a government loan and that its stock has increased from $1.5 to $11. In fact, the Altimeter Group did a study that showed companies actively engaged in social media had higher revenue increases than those that weren't active. Also, it has flowed downstream to production to where Ford's cars are enabled with WiFi, MP3 Sync Technology, the ability to tweet and status update via voice commands while driving, etc. This is a reflection of the great work that James Farley, Scott Monty, and others are doing there.

  4. Where do you see the future of social media?

    Much will be around data aggregation and the sharing of this information with the social graph. What have my friends purchased? What services or restaurants have they rated highly? You will see search and social media begin to merge with the end result being we will no longer search for products and services via a search engine, rather they will find us via social media. This is one of the true powers of social media! I care more what my friends and peers link to than about what an algorithm or opaque rating system spits out.

    Also, consumers will demand more control of their privacy. In a simplified example: there are some photos a consumer doesn't mind sending to the universe, while others they only want to send to five select people.

    Oh, and 30 other things we haven't even dreamed up...that's what is exciting!


Erik Qualman

Called a Digital Dale Carnegie, Erik Qualman is the author of best sellers Socialnomics (2009) and Digital Leader (2011). Socialnomics made the #1 Best Sellers List in seven countries and was a finalist for "Book of the Year." Fast Company Magazine lists Qualman as a Top 100 Digital Influencer. He is a frequently requested international speaker and has visited 42 countries. He produced the world's most viewed social media video series and it has been used by NASA to the National Guard.

He has been fortunate to share the stage with Julie Andrews, Al Gore, Tony Hawk, Sarah Palin, Jose Socrates (Prime Minister of Portugal), Alan Mulally, and many others. For the past 17 years Qualman has helped grow the digital capabilities of many companies including Cadillac, EarthLink, EF Education, Yahoo, Travelzoo, and AT&T. He is also an MBA Professor at the Hult International Business School. Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas. He was Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State University and recently gave the commencement address at the University of Texas. He lives in Boston with his wife and daughter.

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