Utility is key to social media strategy [INTERVIEW]

Here's the transcript of quite a fun interview I did with ITWEB on the new "social" economy. Must say, I'm getting a lot more realistic about what's working and what's not. There's way too much buzz out there about the world of social media.

Perhaps I'm just getting old and grumpy :)

Anyway, some nice soundbites in here.

--- snip ---

Andy Hadfield is the keynote speaker at ITWeb's Social Media Summit, scheduled for mid-August. He will speak about how our culture is affected by the technology around us, and the social and market changes this technology is causing. We had the opportunity to get his views on doing business in the social media age on Twitter.

ITWeb conducted the live interview yesterday afternoon and a few followers joined the discussion.

Below is a transcript.

Andy Hadfield (AH): Ok. We're about to start the Twitter Interview with ITWeb – join in on #AskAndyH – I find using TwitterFall works well for stream...

ITWeb: Hi Andy, thanks for joining us. Let's start with the biggie: How can social media influence the bottom line?

AH: Thank goodness someone is asking that :P. Social media is probably more of a cost saver than a revenue generator at present (it's an immature medium). Let's see. Discovery of content/products = lower cost of marketing. Customer retention = cheaper to retain than acquire. Market intelligence = research, direct sell, rare but possible (@DellOutlet, airlines). Those are ways for social media to contribute to the bottom line.

The biggest risk is if you don't link social media activity to real measurable BUSINESS value – it'll get turfed on budget discussions in two years' time.

Social media is very novel now. It's getting lots of attention, little planning and little thought of the future. Play carefully or there will be no budget in future :).

ITWeb: Do you think it is necessary for every business to have a social media strategy?

AH: NO! Actually, I get quite irritated with the whole, "you're dead if you don't go social” thing. Do social if it's USEFUL to customers. Badly done social engagement is like answering a support e-mail in five days. Would rather have picked up the phone.

Social engagement has to be about more than pushing fluffy content down pipes. The goal is utility and relevance. That's the only way to stick out – which means there's probably more joy to be had by SMEs in the social space. Niche communities = immediately more relevant, less noisy.

Dirk Tolken: SM strategy is very important. in my opinion, so too SM policies.

AH: SM strategy is just such a horrible buzzword at the moment; misunderstood, misapplied, put in a box, blah blah.

Dirk Tolken: Agreed, but a necessary evil for larger campaigns.

AH: As long as social integration means more than, "put it on YouTube yo" :).

ITWeb: Is there a particular kind of business, in your opinion, that's better suited to using social media?

AH: Sure, ones that are topical/interesting, or just understand you're 100% in the HelloPeter/customer service game. It's ok to do social service, but dear god have the systems in place. It's hard to "ticket log" a conversation :).

ITWeb: What do you see many businesses getting wrong in the social media space?

AH: Business fails to realise that social needs more than content. Needs UTILITY. Build on top of the conversation/community. Digital content is already commoditised. If it's not unique, then it's just adding to the noise, in my humble opinion. There are often plenty better ways to get YOUR content.

ITWeb: We've been hearing a lot recently about the "social" business or "social" product. Can you expand on these terms?

AH: Social business just means you LISTEN and ACT on feedback from customers, I think. More embracing of connective nature of technology. Understand market maturation: ATTENTION economy (broadcast) > RETENTION economy (engage) > INTENTION economy (there when needed).

ITWeb: In other words, businesses should not speak unless spoken to?

AH: There's a balance. Don't talk for the sake of talking. Lots of companies do that. Talk when there's a reason to. Understanding the intention/need of customers can make that push content more relevant, I guess.

Teboho Qholosha: For me, social business means leveraging social technologies to advance business strategy.

AH: So how would that work?

Teboho Qholosha: e.g. Using LinkedIn to recruit technology-savvy personnel; crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, etc

AH: Sure. Good answers. Link social tools to business needs/outcomes. Not other way around :).

Teboho Qholosha: Would say, engage in dialogue rather than one-way communication.

AH: Shew, that's getting buzzwordy, brotha :) Been trying that for years with call centres!

Teboho Qholosha: When applied in context to advance strategic outcomes, SM strategy has value.

AH: Until we're better at collecting/analysing/interpreting social data, it's always going to be hard to make it a "science".

Teboho Qholosha: Agree. Sill early days for SM.

AH: It'll settle down, become another channel, like e-mail. Which is kinda sad, I think...

Dirk Tolken: Already is, but some things can't be 'channelled'. That's typical agency talk. Integrated marketing should be the outlook.

AH: Focused marketing, right integration at right place, where relevant, where effective and where needed.

ITWeb: What, in your opinion, is the most important change that an organisation can make to survive in the social era?

AH: ORM. Online Reputation Management. Six months mandatory before hitting 'tweet'. There are plenty of systems available – local and international.

Get executives using social media publicly. It really helps with understanding limitations of platforms. Adopt internally first (Yammer?).

ITWeb: Any tips on how one can get executive buy-in to that plan? (Getting executives to become familiar with platform first).

AH: That's bloody hard. They have to WANT to. And most see it as a waste of time. You have to illustrate the value it can bring... or just get them all jealous of @MichaelJordaan's [Ed: FNB CEO] activity :) Some companies just don't have it in their executive culture.

ITWeb: What metrics do you use to measure success in your own social media strategies?

AH: SM Metrics = ACTIONS. Ability to incite people to do something. That's the only measure, in my humble opinion. People VASTLY overestimate their power to activate. My gut estimate would be you're lucky if you can ACTIVATE 1% of your community. Social media = banner ad performance?! Uh oh.

Most bitly clicks I ever got was 5% of my Twitter community. Is everyone that honest? "Oh but they SAW it". Hmm. What's the half life of tweet? I hate that the Web is becoming all about 1% activation. It can do so much more, and does on occasion. Noise and lack of filters keeps it low.

ITWeb: Final question from us: What do you see for the future of social media?

AH: It will get worse/noisier before it gets better. It's very empowering, so everyone wants to shout loudly :). We certainly lack the filters. My favourite quote from Clay Shirky: "It's not information overload, it's filter failure". Truth. Or I'm just getting old and grumpy :P

Eventually, SM will settle down and become another channel. Like e-mail. Which is sad. Could be so much more. If we play right.

On the positive side – it's the best data on behaviour/intent/culture/sentiment/language we've EVER had. Need to use it now!

Original article on ITWEB
You can hear more from Andy Hadfield at ITWeb's inaugural Social Media Summit.


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