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Social Media Marketing as Strategy

 

Companies traditionally do the following:
1. Set overall strategy
2. Conduct massive market research
3. Build “end-to-end” go-to-market strategies
4. Create brand positioning and messaging
5. Launch
6. Repeat steps 1 through 5

Most people believe that in the competitive global market it is critical
to have a strategy that ensures a consistent approach to offering
products or services in a way that will outsell the competition. That,
combined with a well-defined tactical methodology for the day-to-day
process of implementation, is what makes for a winning combination.

For years, marketing professionals have been talking about creating
a relationship between brands and consumers. The missing link has
now been realized in the form of new free social marketing and social
Web platforms that enable dialogue among consumers, peers, and
brands on a global scale. Traditional definitions are being flipped.
Share of voice is no longer something that can be gained by out-
spending the competition to be heard the loudest on TV, on radio,
or in print. It has been redefined as the activity and volume of conver-
sations with people taking place in social media about one’s service,
product, or brand. It is the voice of consumers empowered on free,
connected soapboxes to share opinions, reviews, and evaluations.
Expensive research, focus groups, and awareness campaigns can be
replaced, or at least enhanced, by online surveys, blog comments, and
tweets.

Social media is exactly what the name implies: media that is social.
What happens in the online social space mirrors what happens offline.
People interact, discuss, share interests, find trust and respect, and
make judgments—all in the moment or in real-time.

When marketers approach social media as a viable business intel-
ligence platform, they often get unexpected insights into consumer
opinions and shared experiences. Conversation and engagements
occur, for example, via comments, posts, blogs, photos, videos, forums,
and location-based platforms. Companies should consider this an open
window to what consumers, competitors, partners, and other stake-
holders are thinking and saying, anytime and anywhere. Imagine
being able to respond immediately on the same platform. Nic Adler,
owner of the world-famous Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip in Los
Angeles, was monitoring Twitter one night when he read a tweet from
a customer saying that her drink was weak. He saw her profile picture,
had the bartender mix a stronger drink, found her in the club, and
delivered it to her. The next tweet she sent raved about The Roxy. Nic’s
objective is to create loyal customers. He uses social media strategically,
and in this case Twitter was the forum that delivered real-time results.

 

Current social media watchwords are transparency, authenticity,
engagement, conversation, community, sentiment, and influence. To
veteran marketers, these words are familiar; to the new marketer, they
are the lifeblood of successful real-time strategies. Consumers use
these criteria to measure brand promise. If a brand does not deliver,
the company will definitely hear about it. Real-time strategies self-
monitor to ensure that these watchwords are adhered to and reduce
any potential friction.

 

Successful  strategies based  on social media marketing    include the following:
•  Listening
•  Responding
•  Staying nimble
•  Engaging in reputation management
•  Thinking counter intuitively

One of the most definitive books ever published on strategy—
Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter’s Competitive Strategy:
Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors—was written back
in 1980, before the PC, the Internet, or social media.

Porter’s Five Forces identified competitive influences that shape
every single industry and market. It set the benchmark for how the
companies that constitute those industries should view the competitive
landscape. These forces help marketers analyze everything from the
intensity of competition to the profitability and attractiveness of an
industry.

Porter notes, “Competitive strategy is about being different. It means
deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique
mix of value. The essence of strategy is in the activities—choosing

to perform activities differently or to perform different activities than
rivals. Otherwise, a strategy is nothing more than a marketing slogan
that will not withstand competition.”

Another approach prevalent today is the Blue Ocean Strategy con-
tained in a 2005 business book by that name written by W. Chan Kim
and Renée Mauborgne. Those authors convey the high growth and
profits an organization can generate by creating new demand in an
uncontested market space, or a “Blue Ocean.” Success is more likely to
happen this way than when a company is competing head to head with

other suppliers for the same customers in an existing industry. Social
gaming is a good example of Blue Ocean, as FarmVille and Texas
Hold’em appear to exist in an uncontested market space—at least for
now. One could argue that the entire real-time social media space is
classic Blue Ocean as it careens onto the radar of more and more com-
panies, brands, and organizations.

Even further back than Blue Ocean or Porter is the master strategist
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, which remains a classic strategy
guideline to this day. The iPhone’s disruptive introduction into the
marketplace is well documented. Sun Tzu emphasized the element
of surprise (disruption) by advising that one not divulge the formation
of one’s forces and tactics beforehand and then attack when the com-
petitor is unprepared:
•  Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be
extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness.
Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.
•  The formation and procedure used by the military should not
be divulged beforehand.
•  Attack when they are unprepared; make your move when they
do not expect it.

In fact, most of the market was not ready for the surprise of the
last decade: social media and real-time communication. A handful
saw it coming, but the fact is that most businesses are just waking up
to the realization that something has shifted. Their companies and
employees are requiring new online skills to keep up or stay ahead of
the competition, engage customers, and respond appropriately.  The
business community has a long way to go. Starting at the beginning,
let us look at brand basics and real-time social media strategies in the
big picture.

 

As we have seen, social media and real-time require companies to
establish a different culture of communication to be effective. Because
social technologies are having a direct impact on the way businesses
operate, companies are trying to understand the challenges and find
the best strategies. Bringing openness to what previously was con-
sidered proprietary material is disconcerting at first; however, com-
panies such as Cisco and Kodak openly share their social media
strategies on their Web sites for any and all to see. Sharing and trans-
parency are two key elements of social media. To be true to the social
media call, industry players are communicating, networking, and
learning together to develop strategies and policies for the long-term
success of their organizations.

The entire enterprise ecosystem is being affected by social and real-
time technologies. In fact, because opening up social channels poten-
tially affects multiple enterprise functions, companies are enlisting
change management professionals to help them transform into real-
time organizations. It necessitates answering questions such as: What
is the scope of this new process? How many departments will be
impacted? How many people will we need to hire? What is the time
frame for the change? Additional considerations in a change man-
agement process are the organizational attributes, impacted groups,
risk analysis, and so on.

The operational function that owns social media will utilize the
various listening tools that are available and respond to conversations,
help solve problems, and engage with customers and prospects. In
some cases, this may mean that a big brand is mentioned literally
10,000 times a day. This brings up a key decision that has to be reached
early on: Where do social media and real-time live in the organization?
Is this a marketing function? Or is it an extension of customer rela-
tionship management, corporate communications, investor relations,
or public relations? Once that is determined, the issue of who trains
the organization on the value of the tools or sets policy will arise.

 

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