The Shake Weight Challenge of Social Media

The social and mobile revolution is about data. It is the enormous volume, real-time velocity, and variety of data from disparate sources that is causing indigestion issues for most business’ corporate metabolisms.

It’s Not a Publishing Revolution!

The disruption caused by social and mobile technologies is not entirely about how the voice of every customer can be shared in public at anytime and anyplace. There has been a major change – customers have different expectations of the companies they patronize.

Technological and social advances have converged to leave customers demanding that companies embrace authenticity and improve customer experiences or suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, most companies mistakenly worry about keeping ahead of their competition; the critical issue is keeping pace with their customers.

Customer-Centric and Data-Driven, Buzzwords?

Most organization that struggle with being data-driven struggle equally with being truly customer-focused. The whole point of collecting and acting on data is to allow you to understand your customers so you can develop better relationships with them.

Ted Rubin, chief social marketing officer of Collective Bias and co-author of “Return on Relationship,” says:

“If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™.

Return on Relationship™…simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.”

Continuous Optimization for Corporate Metabolisms

My company has been focused on working with select clients on this set of problems for the last four years. We see many organizations struggling with the standard challenges that every organization faces when trying to become data-centric and customer-focused:

  • Corporate structure that keeps data, decisions, and incentives separated in silos.
  • Lack of corporate agility usually because of those silos and risk aversion.
  • Slow corporate metabolism that suffocates corporate agility doesn’t allow organizations to respond in near real time.
  • Leadership that is uncomfortable with data and lacks knowledge to measure customer experience.
  • All of the above are vestiges of fossilized analog business models that launched and prayed as opposed to continuous optimization models.

This Is a Big Data Problem

As if these weren’t enough, add the complexity of social and mobile data, which is very different from the data most organizations typically handle. This is by definition big data:

  • Data that comes from outside the organization into the organization. Companies are used to pushing out communications, but true relationships happen when communication flows both ways.
  • Data comes in unstructured. It is not the type of data companies typically see in a neat Excel spreadsheet. They need to analyze pictures, videos, and sentiment analysis. The challenge is that those don’t necessarily fit easily into ROI calculations and financial statements.
  • Data flows into the organization in real time. Customers have expectations of timely and more-than-adequate responses 24/7, 365 days a year, moments after they share.


Outsourcing Critical Functions

Think about it this way: as Chris Brogan pointed out, many organizations are outsourcing their social media to agencies, another silo, or they are creating a social media team. Really, hiring outsiders to dialog with their customers?

Perversely, in-house or outsourced social media teams are usually not cross-functional and/or integrated across the entire business. They often don’t have the ability to make significant business decisions because they are low on the corporate totem pole. Companies need to realize that people who are front-line and in direct contact with your customers are some of your most valuable assets if, data immediately in hand, they are empowered to rectify problems, answer questions, and delight customers during these critical touch points.

The lack of success in social media is not surprising when so many organizations struggle with one of the oldest digital mediums, email. So many companies still think that creating relevance through personalization of email is welcoming people by their name. It’s not about personalization by name, it’s customization through the use of data to communicate contextually only what is relevant to your customer.

The One-Big-Bicep Problem

Even having a social media team that is “effective” is like acknowledging you are out of shape, and instead of undergoing a complete fitness regimen you decide to only build up your biceps. Many social media efforts are like trying to get healthy with the shake weight: lots of motion, very few results.

Jason Miller, senior social media strategist at Marketo, who has been doing some pretty phenomenal things integrating social media, the company’s redesigned blog, email marketing, and marketing automation into their own strategy, points out:

“If a business is serious about social, it’s time to start doing something with the immense amount of available data. The technology is now in place allowing marketers to not only track social interactions but also incorporate that data into building a much better profile of your customers and prospects and even anonymous visitors which you are trying to convert to known. These insights play a major role in determining the best type of content to help move that person down the sales funnel. It’s all about making the prospect’s journey as dynamic and personalized as possible based on all the available data that a marketer can collect and act upon.”

What we need today is for the whole organization to do a better job at understanding their customers using inside and outside data sources, to develop the agility and processes to react to those sources in near real time, and have the leadership in place that encourages experimentation by using the data to create remarkable experiences that fuel the cycle all over again.

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