Unlocking the Value of Social Media: An Approach for Small Business

Thoughts By 8 years ago

Over the last number of years, social media companies, and the tools they have developed, have received ever increasing column inches in the business press. It seems when real news is sparse business columns get used up telling us how the latest social media tool is being used by a large company or a quirky celebrity to do something fuzzy like generate awareness or grow their brand.

Naturally as an internet advisory company, these articles are of interest to us and we are constantly trying out the new technologies mentioned. However, when we discuss social media tools with our clients they are not interested in hearing about the new features the latest social media tool offers. Small business wants to know one thing: how can social media add value to my business. The problem with articles on social media is that they don’t address the issues of delivering value to business.

Thankfully this area of the internet is maturing and we are starting to see the emergence of some approaches that promise to deliver value from social media.

The first thing to recognise is that every business is different, with different products and services, and even more importantly with different customers, with different behaviours. To get value from social media a company needs to begin with this understanding.

Forrester Research outlines a simple framework for implementing social media in its latest book “Groundswell”. It is called POST which stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology. This is an approach we favour.

People: Begin all social media initiatives by analysing the people. What is your target market? How are your customers segmented? Once you know who they are you can start to understand how they interact on the internet and with social media in particular?  Forrester Research has developed a social technographic s ladder to describe customer behaviour in relation to social media. It recognises six types of profiles: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. You need to understand where your customers fit on the ladder. This will tell you whether they are ready to embrace a social media initiative and, if so, how they are likely to engage with it.

Objectives: What are the business objectives of the social media initiative? Are you looking to build your brand? Do you want to listen to what your customers have to say? Are you looking to generate sales via social media? Forrester lays out five key objectives of social media (all related to interaction with the customer): listening, talking, energising, supporting and embracing.

Strategy: What is your strategy? How do you want to change your relationship with customers as a result of social media? Every business will have different strategies. However every business should have a strategy and a tactical plan outlining how you are going to achieve this strategy?

Technology: Interestingly, and as with all good technology projects, the technology comes last! Only when you know what you want to do with the technology should you begin implementing it. As with all technology implementations, have a good process to ensure you choose the right technology provider and implementer.

In conclusion, The POST approach will ensure organisations adopt a business oriented approach to social media that will ensure value is delivered to the organisation. For more on Social Media and the Forrester tools outlined above visit www.buaconsulting.com/social_media

By Fergal Coleman

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