This month’s CustomerThink topic focuses on how companies can leverage the social web to drive business results. Here’s the topic description:
Blogging, word of mouth and social networking can have a tremendous impact on how your company is perceived. But it’s a lot like herding cats. How do you manage all the people who can have an effect on your brand?
It is a lot like herding cats and I think the key question that the topic overview sets forth is a good one: How do you manage?… Rather than attempting to manage the Social Web, I recommend that marketers:
- Put down the bullhorn and listen. Corporations and their marketing arms love to be in control. While we will learn many more lessons from the Social Web in the coming years, a crucial lesson learned to date is that we – the marketers – are not in the driver’s seat. The community is in control. As participants in the Social Web, we must set aside our desire to control and manage the message. We must listen, interact as peers, and learn from the community.
- Adopt technologies to help listen and learn. Social computing technologies provide a platform for anyone to rave or condemn the companies with which they do business. At the same time, they create a searchable public record of what people are saying. That’s the beauty of it! We now unprecedented access to what people say about us. But, it doesn’t make sense to have a fleet of staff running Google queries every day. To help, there are monitoring technologies and services from companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, MotiveQuest, and others that automate the task of capturing and organizing what people are saying.
- Define processes to communicate, consider, and leverage the insight across the business. Positive or negative, we can learn from what people are saying and we can leverage what we learn many ways: for R&D or product development, to improve customer service, to refine messaging, etc. I believe that Marketing should be the conduit from which the entire company taps into this new valuable source of customer insight. Marketing execs need to take the lead internally to get processes in place to ensure that learnings are effectively communicated and considered for their impact on how the company goes to market and serves its customers.
- Choose to participate with eyes wide open. While I do believe that all large companies should be in listen mode on the Social Web, I think the decision regarding whether to actively participate is more complex. Does participation help you sell more stuff, identify new market needs, or retain customers? It depends on your business and, beyond that, early adopters are still trying to blaze a path that leads to business results. As with any investment of marketing budget and time, make sure to establish goals – or at least a hypothesis – that define what you expect to gain. If you don’t do this, you can’t measure.
- Always be genuine. We’ve already seen well publicized examples of fake blogs. The community loves to seek out and expose those who are disingenuous. Again, Marketers must relinquish their desire to manage, control, and manipulate. The Social Web offers an unprecedented opportunity to interact directly with your target audience, don’t blow it.