But too often, in the rush to embrace one of the hottest, most promising new tools in marketing and communications, organizations are asking the wrong questions, making poor choices, and building social media campaigns that disappoint rather than delighting them.
That’s why I was so pleased to see a series of white papers by Avectra, a U.S. software vendor that took a hard look at the strategy and return on investment (ROI) behind social media.
“Many associations have invested time, energy, and budgets into building a strategy that allows them to engage both members and prospects through social media,” Avectra noted in the first of three papers, 7 Myths and Realities of Social ROI for Associations [sign-up required].
“Measuring social ROI, however, is an ongoing challenge for executives seeking to prove the channel’s value to board members and other key stakeholders within the organization.”
Starting Off on the Right Foot
But to get that value, associations have to start out with the right assumptions about social media campaigning. One of the most important, as Avectra said, is that “social CRM (customer relationship management) is a philosophy and business strategy supported by technology,” not just a technology tool.
(Before we go on, just pause and read that again. How often do you expect a software company to tell you that your next big buy isn’t primarily about the technology?)
“Certainly, Social CRM needs to be supported by the right technology platform,” the company stated, but the strategy goes much farther. “It’s about getting the entire organization onboard with the idea that Social CRM collects and uses social data to engage the member in a collaborative conversation, in a way that is mutually beneficial and trustworthy.”
The white paper urged readers to build strategies for “thoughtful, strategic, authentic engagement,” rather than leaping right in to open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn: “A ‘throw it at the wall and see if it sticks’ attitude is not a social strategy,” but if the strategy is right, the measurable results will follow: “Social media can offer true ROI, but only with a thoughtful, data-driven strategy behind it.”
Acting As If It Matters
For many Canadian associations, the first steps are a bit more basic. In its 2012 Pulse Report, Greenfield Services discovered that three-quarters of Canadian associations were treating social media management as a part-time task, assigned to a staff member with other responsibilities. Only 4.6% of survey respondents came from organizations with full-time social media managers.
“A part-time social media manager can do great things with enough time and the right training,” Greenfield noted. “However, a general understanding of the association sector suggests that many of these ‘accidental’ or ‘occasional’ managers are still finding their way on social media while they juggle competing job priorities.”
What are your biggest challenges with social media management?
Have you had a chance to define the ROI you expect from your social platforms? How are they performing against that standard?