Here you are: the first week of 2013, back from the holidays. Ready to get started? Here’s a checklist for 2013.
Create a Roadmap
First things first, and a roadmap that starts with your business objectives is a great place to begin. It sounds simple – of course you’ll be working toward the common objectives of your organization, right? On closer inspection, though, take a look at your own job objectives, and the objectives of your most senior leaders: are they aligned? To the untrained eye, would it be clear that you worked for the same company? It’s important to start with business objectives when creating your social platform roadmap precisely because, for too many organizations, the objectives deeper in the organization tend to reflect local goals (like launching a Facebook page or developing a new application for use with an existing business page) rather than connecting that Facebook effort to improved margins or the realization of new competitive advantage. Chances are, the senior objectives look more like the latter, and it’s important that yours do too as you build your social program roadmap for 2013.
Build on Your Owned Media
Your “owned” presence – your website, your branded support forums, your mobile apps, your call center – are your crown jewels. That may sound odd coming from a social strategist, but quoting Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang, ask yourself: “Why are you sending your customers to Mark?” Why are you investing your money to build an audience for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest…and other social channels? So that you can turn around and pay them to advertise to the people you just sent there? I’m not suggesting that these core social channels are not an important part of your social strategy – they are, as detailed in the next checklist item. Instead, I’m pointing out that social begins with your platform, your customer experiences, and your ability to interact and support social conversations. Get your “owned” house in order first, and the benefits of the non-owned channels will be amplified.
Build Your Non-Owned Presence
With your owned house in order, build your non-owned social presence. Brian Solis calls them “social outposts,” a term that makes a lot of sense when you see the landscape as centered on your brand, pulling participants in from the places they naturally hang out and share stories. Build your apps on Facebook, and by all means make Twitter a big part of your social outreach program. Pinterest and YouTube are great publishing sites with applications ranging from marketing to customer care and research. There are a billion people signed up to these channels, and that means your customers are there. You need to be there too.
Build a Team
Inside your own organization, who’s running social? You? Marketing? IT? Think about that last one: if your colleagues are prevented from accessing the social web from their desks, IT is running your social program. Why? Because unless your colleagues are in daily touch with what is happening on the social web, you can’t be effective on the social web, anymore than you can enjoy a movie standing outside the theater. Because your colleagues carry personal smartphones, they are already using the social web in the office, at least in their “consumer” lives. Sit down with leaders across your organization and build a team that includes IT, legal, HR, customer service, and marketing. Look at the social web as a fundamental influence on your marketplace, and get everyone involved. IT has legitimate security concerns, and the social web causes real nightmares for HR and corporate legal. But that doesn’t mean you stick your company head in the sand and limit your use of the social web to a single Facebook page carrying pre-approved proclamations written by your PR agency. Make it the mandate of this team to figure out how to use social media responsibly to drive your business objectives. See now why I suggested starting with shared, corporate business objectives?
Profile Your Customers
Take a look at your customer base: develop detailed personas – profiles that describe the typical interactions of specific customer archetypes – and use those to guide your roadmap implementation. Search Google for “groundswell profiler” if you need help getting started. It’s a great resource and it’s free. Now look back at your owned and non-owned plans, and chart each of the primary profiles. Tie the end results you expect from this effort back to your business objectives and you’ll have built a super solid foundation for your social media program.
Add Social Customer Care
Quick: which department in your company reaches and interacts with more customers than any other? If you said “marketing” (as in “advertising), you got the reach part right, but you missed the interaction. The fact is that for most organizations, it’s the operations side of the business, and in particular customer care, that is directly involved in the majority of customer interactions. Every interaction is a potential conversation on the social web. Think about that: your biggest lever when it comes to impacting what your customers say about you on the social web is not your advertising budget but rather your customer care program. This means all care channels, from phones to chat to email to social (you do support service requests via Twitter, right? Right!?). Every interaction is an opportunity for your customer, smartphone in hand, to say either “You suck!” or “I love you!” Which of those posts do you think encourages potential customers to move all the way through the purchase funnel? Without a solid social customer care program you are missing a huge opportunity to amplify the money you’ve spent on ads, the goodwill you’ve built up through great product design, and the market share you’ve earned through hard work.
Consolidate Customer Knowledge
Building on the data and reporting capabilities of your social care platform (if your social care platform doesn’t provide detailed, case-by-case actionable reports, then get one that does), consolidate customer knowledge. Find trends that indicate opportunities for improvement, look for natural customer-driven advocacy, and nail the places where you absolutely own your market. Tie this back to your customer profiles and use this information to evolve the persona library that you maintain. Great ideas can (and do) come from anywhere, including your customers.
Measure Your Results
Implement a proven, quantitative assessment methodology. Your social program is rich with data: don’t settle for vague trends or other forms of eye candy. Take a page out of Tufte and build some hard-hitting, fact-based reports that tie back to…you guessed it, your overall organizational business objectives. Develop a model for fiscal ROI, and reject “return on interactions, return on impressions…” or any other ratio that fails to relate your financial investment to increased sales or improved margins. As Lord Kelvin put it, “If your knowledge is not quantitative, it is of a meager and insufficient kind.” OK, that may be harsh…but you get the point: measure your results using numbers you can defend and which relate directly to whatever it is that keeps you in business.
Back to your internal teams: with your customer knowledge and persona library defined, connect these data sources to the participation data within your social channels. Who is using what? What are they doing with it? And most importantly, what does this mean for your own organization? Take a look at how you are set up – who reports to whom, who control what aspects of which customer experiences? Then ask yourself: how should your firm be structured? If it all matches, that’s great. If not, then you’ve got the internal team in place to begin rebuilding internal reporting relationships to match your marketplace.
Add an Innovation Platform
Assuming that you’re still with me, here comes the acid test: ask your customers to tell you what they want next. Take a look at “My Starbucks Idea” – something like 100,000 suggestions voted and shaped into several hundred retail store changes. While you’re at it, look at Starbucks’ stock price since 2008 when it launched this program, and compare it with other shares price trends: whether inside the industry or across a market index, Starbucks is clearly doing something right. My Starbucks Idea is part of it.
Asking customers for direct input is not for the faint-of-heart: it’s probably the hardest thing any organization can do, and represents the highest level of interconnectedness between markets and customers. Somehow, “The Cluetrain Manifesto” just never seems to lose its relevance.
Invest in Yourself
In my last column I listed some great ways to build your skills, to continue to advance, and improve. Be sure to find a place for self-improvement: the rate of change in social technology is increasing, and the stakes are climbing. Be prepared. Finally, take a vacation. It may seem like the crush of the world is on you (but hey, at least it didn’t end last month!), so be sure to take it in stride. Define your program, tie it to your business objectives, get a team in place, and measure it. Then turn the reins over to your customers. It will all work out.
Bucket List image on home page via Shutterstock.