"Engagement is actually a pretty complex process when you look under the hood", said Axel Schultze in a recent post at Social Media Academy.
It's a theme which has rung out from many of the more experienced social business consultants during this year. It's the realization that (a) the old advice of "just getting out there and doing something" isn't going to get you to a "social business", and (b) that engaging your own organisation needs a solid plan and actions.
Have your customers take the lead
Axel actually went further, his post called Engaging customers is actually a bad idea - that's provocative. He suggests turning the engagement procedure on it's head and facilitating your customers to first engage with you. Which means - you need to find multiple ways, and customer-preferred ways, for them to engage with you.
In order to do that you first need to know in which social places and spaces your customers and prospects and their influencers are hanging about having conversations. And that's not so simply if you have multiple brands, products, services, and you also want to check out your competitors.
Which means that before you start heading anywhere, you need to known where you are today, and where your customers, prospects and competitors are.
Planning - knowing where you are and where you want to be
Remember the "old" idea of building a solid plan to get from A to B? From the AS IS, to the TO BE, and taking into account risk and resources - I found a 10 year old pic from a PPT of mine which shows the process - on right.
That model still holds. Planning starts with an assessment of where you are in this process and where your customers etc are. As they say at iGo2Group:
A strategy is a plan of how an organisation will move from its current social assessment to its agreed business goals as it relates to the use of social media and networks to get there. Goals are key to great social strategies and they may be for sales (revenue, margin, share) or marketing (leads, programs, pipeline) or market research (monitoring, competitive, sentiment) or service (customer satisfaction, reduce service costs) or innovation (new product development, product testing, launches). But they must be tangible business goals.
So the plan is how to move from the current, to the goals. In fact iGO2 say "the most overused word in social media today is 'engage' " - better to provide benefits to customers and provide paths for them to engage and in a way which takes you towards your goals.
That then raises the question of tactics, and social media strategy and tactics are often confused.
Tactics and strategy often confused in social media discussions
Thinking of tactics as the following kinds of things, this is a complex part of the social reconstruction of an organisations processes e.g. the social penetration deep into company structures to create an engaged work force, and the creation of internal and external social communities, and education and training of employee and partner communities to leverage Social Business, for example.
That's all tough stuff in any moderate sized organisation. It requires solid thought and serious commitment and resource allocation. It's a world apart from having a few people doing what might be "great job" in some isolated unit of the business e.g. the "Twitter support team". And this is why, now, it's not really recommended to follow an "enthusiast" path to social business as that approach can't really do more than educate other early adopters. It falls short of taking the organisation with it.
In a nutshell, being "engagement ready" is a major undertaking which in itself requires serious analysis and planning, aligned with a social media strategy and the plans to channel in engagement from customers.
The social media team
Steve Farnsworth(@Steveology) wrote about this a while back, like Axel in a post with a provocative headline - Why Are You Wasting Time and Money with Radian6, Scout Labs, SM2, or Other Social Media Monitoring Tool? Steve says, after purchasing such tools the tool becomes functionally the Software as a Service (SaaS) version of Shelfware. Shelfware-as-a-service.
The main reason?
The bulk of responsibility rests squarely on the users’ lack of vision, and understanding of smart practices around implementation and adaptation, says Steve based on his conversations.
He notes that many times the tools disappear into a corner in Marketing, with a young enthusiast driving it, and that "this is a heartbeat away from saying that your nephew designed your company logo". Exactly.
Steve advocates the type of social media team that is advocated by all the experienced social business practitioners now:
... include a representative from every key department on the team to help implement your social media monitoring program, build a strong mix of skills and points of view, constantly evaluate efforts and results, and set clear goals, you have a fighting chance at making social media monitoring a powerful asset to your organization.
His readers agree - overwhelmingly - I suggest that you read the comments to his post.
What is it, again, that we're trying to do with social media?
Finally, a fundamental confusion needs to be put on the table in order to not have mismatched expectations. It's often the case that one side of a discussion about social media strategy is thinking "customer insights" and "ideas" and "sales", and the other is thinking "brand protection" and PR. They require quite different setups and socialisation, and that's why the initial planning steps and goal setting are so important. If you are satisfied with brand monitoring that's one thing, if you want to concentrate on sales leads that's another, and on innovation another.
For example, as far as innovation goes you'll need to listen out for the most wackiest conversations about your product and services - where people are doing odd things or unhappy in a "promising" way. If you're interested mainly in brand monitoring and PR you'll be listening mainly for "negative sentiment", and for sales you'll want to hear some "immediacy" in the conversation.
Then, your structures and teams and resources and executive actions will need to be tailored and aligned with each of those different objectives - whichever one you choose, or several if the organisation has the bandwidth.
So you get the idea, that to end up in the right place you need to start in the right place and know where you're heading and how to get there. That's where social media is today, and it's good to see the maturing market for proper social business consulting services.
Do you still see a rush to action prior to "thinking" in social media strategy?
What is the biggest corporate challenge today in the "how to"?
Please comment below.