Look Beyond the Digital Natives—Find the Customer-Centric Eccentric
“Our social media strategy is failing and we are not quite sure why. We think it’s time to hire a Chief Social Media Officer.” This is what the CEO of a mid-sized software company said to me last week. He thought I was joking when I asked him if he was ready to wear the additional hat of Chief Social Media Supporter. I told him I was serious and shot him a string of questions. “Aren’t you the most important face of the company? Are you not most concerned about customer loyalty? Isn’t the company and brand image your responsibility? Doesn’t the buck stop at you?” In a typical and just-what-I-expected tunnel vision kind of way, he claimed he had bigger responsibilities. Such as? “Well, my biggest priority, as it should be, is the bottom line. We started small and we are a medium-sized corporation now, so we have to be very bottom line driven and customer focused.”
Now hold on there a second, “customer focused” was music to my ears. So if he got that right, how come he didn’t get that everything else, including the bottom line will fall into its place if a company truly is customer focused. In my opinion, too many organizations assume that “customer focused” and “customer centric” are one and the same thing. They are not; they simply must co-exist because they are interlinked. Being customer centric requires you to really understand your customers and what keeps them up at night. Customer focus is an easier task to accomplish as you channel all your resources to reach your target audience across multiple and diverse touch points. As a customer centric organization, you strive to keep your audience engaged beyond the lifetime of a sale, while customer focus will push you to nurture a lead and progress it through to conversion. And there is nothing wrong with that mind you; it is in fact, a necessary step in the process. But you’ve got to go further than that to be a strong customer relationship management organization.
So anyway, coming back to the anecdote I started this post with, my CEO friend was insistent that he needs to hire a top-level executive to wield the baton for social media. I already knew what his next question would be, “Do you know where we might find an expert in social media tools and online technologies?” Stop! What makes a digital native qualified enough to take on this critical role of building customer engagement? Like I said in my post last week, it’s the Wild, Wild West of social media, but that is even more reason to ensure that you don’t go out there hammering out your marketing messages with a tomahawk!
Your CEO should be Your Chief Social Media Supporter
As companies operating in the B2B space, most of us are still averse to the fading of boundaries between sales, marketing, operations and other silos that allow us to keep within our comfort zones. And the more we hold on to these boundaries, the more we feel pressured to be in control. The one thing organizations have to learn is that being in control takes on a completely new meaning when it comes to social media. Even the mighty Apple, whether it chooses to be active or reactive or neither on social media channels, is a highly discussed brand in social conversations. So like it, hate it, love it, you’ve got to be cognizant of the fact that social media is going to impact your brand. If you accept this reality, how can be so naïve as to allow someone who least understands your brand or your customers to don the top hat of social media in your company? You need a social media marketing expert, not a platform specialist as I’ve said before. And, for a social media strategy to work and integrate with your overall marketing plan, your CEO needs to be your Chief Social Media Supporter—bought into the strategy, offers direction to help set the right tone and most importantly, understands the implications of the company’s social media activities. This is the advice I offered the CEO who was looking for help on this “hiring crisis”.
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To be a good social media marketer, you need to listen, feel, and speak with conviction, share with thought leadership, engage with simplicity and endear with empathy. Yes, you can be an eccentric like the late Steve Jobs (hats off to him again; it’s been a year now since the world lost a rare creative thinker) and build a brand that lives on after you. An eccentric marketing maverick who is passionate about the brand and will move mountains to dig out the gold customers are looking for stands a much better chance at being your Chief Social Media Officer—that’s my simple truth statement for you today.
And Social Media Marketing is Now Being Taught…
Here is a neat Infographic I came across about the psychology of social commerce: http://asocialspectator.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/infographic-the-psychology-of-social-commerce/
I am aware that professors and the psychology academia are deeply immersed in studying and understand the dynamics of the social media scene.
Certain universities are now also offering a Social Media Marketing MBA—Southern New Hampshire University has one online, Devry University covers this as part of their Liberal Studies undergraduate program, Rutgers offers a Mini-MBA, and according to this Businessweek article, many top B-schools are now covering social media in their MBA curriculum.
Andrew T Stephen, assistant professor of marketing at INSEAD near Paris, explains the benefits of social media in MBAs, “The course teaches principles of integrating social media with traditional media and other marketing and business strategies so that students see how all the pieces of this complex puzzle fit together. That way the course doesn’t date.” Rachel Sterne, adjunct professor in future social media entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School says, “Ultimately, social media should be part of any complete marketing, customer service, or development strategy.” Whew! At least the academia seems to get it right about what social media marketers need to know about and learn. That’s a relief. Let’s hope that the C-Suite gets this too before it’s too late.
Who wears the social media marketing hat in your B2B organization? Is this executive truly qualified and committed to the role? Let’s discuss—email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.