Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may have dominated the social platforms in 2011 but as we move into 2012, it is vital for marketers and business leaders to begin thinking about social media in a broader sense, fully appreciating the impact of social dynamics on business.
Jason Xenopoulos, CEO of NATIVE, believes five core concepts will influence marketers and business leaders this year, the first being Social by Design.
“Social by Design is the term that Facebook uses to describe the new order of things where social dynamics now underpin every aspect of the web. But,” says Xenopoulos, “Social by Design is not limited to marketing. The effects of an increasingly-connected world are now being felt at every level of business. Companies are beginning to reorganise themselves around people; processes are changing and structures are mutating as businesses themselves become Social by Design. The question is no longer, ‘how do we create viral marketing,’ but, ‘how do we develop viral products and services?”
From social media to social business
2012 is the year in which industry leaders must look beyond social media and towards Social Business. This year will also see the emergence of a new planning discipline called Propagation Planning, which governs the way in which brand messages scale and spread.
Social media has rewired the planet’s electronic communication networks. No longer is information only consumed through bought-media channels like radio and television, but today, in the socially-connected mediaverse, people are discovering more and more of their content through friends. “Targeting consumers in this environment requires an understanding of how information flows through their social networks. Griffin Farley from BBH New York describes Propagation Planning as, ‘planning not for the people you reach, but the people that they reach, by giving them assets to propagate.’
The Social Media revolution is a consumer revolution. The democratisation of media has shifted power away from corporations and media owners and into the hands of the general public. Today, brands are co-owned by consumers.
Power to the people
The impact of this shifting dynamic cannot be underestimated. “For those business leaders who doubted whether consumers would really usurp their power, the Arab Spring came as a profound and shocking surprise. We live in a world where consumer-centricity, transparency, truth, and authenticity are now table-stakes.
In order to remain relevant in a world being redefined by social dynamics, business leaders will need to devolve their brands into the hands of the people that are most important to them – their customers. ‘Devolution’ is designed to help businesses adapt to the changing needs of their increasingly empowered consumers. They must take heed of this new consumer-led dispensation,” Xenopoulos warns.
Another key trend impacting business is mobilisation. He explains that Mobile media is not just about advertising on cell-phones. It is about understanding the implications of being an ‘always-on’ brand, available to customers anywhere, anytime.
“Mobilising your business is not about buying a few mobile banner ads or building a mobisite,” says Xenopoulos, “but rather about understanding the way mobile computing is likely to disrupt and redefine the customer journey within your industry… and then reshaping your business to meet these burgeoning consumer demands.”
Third world growth
The final factor to consider is the potential of E-merging Markets. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population will grow by another billion people by 2025.
While western markets have begun to buckle beneath the pressure of a global recession, the third-world has begun to emerge. Today 80% of the world’s consumers are moving into a new economic reality. As a result, global brands are now looking to tap into these emerging markets in order to reclaim the growth that once defined their success.
But from a marketing perspective, connecting with emerging consumers has always been a challenge. The sophisticated mass media infrastructures that forged consumerism in the west do not exist in many emerging markets.
Enter the mobile phone. “Suddenly, that reality has changed. In South Africa, for example, in 2009 we had approximately 4,3 million fixed-line connections, but well over 40 million mobile subscribers and the mobile phone is fast becoming the number one gateway onto the Internet. Suddenly, emerging markets like South Africa have managed to leapfrog decades of socio-economic development to arrive at a place where almost the entire population is connected. This radically changes the picture for marketers who now have the opportunity to engage with a whole new layer of the population,” says Xenopoulos.
Leaders and entrepreneurs who are targeting emerging markets must acknowledge the vital role that technology plays in harnessing these consumers… “because it is only through the appropriate and innovative use of technology that we will be able to fully realise the potential of our e-merging consumers.
“According to Chinese Astrology, 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon. If this is anything to go by, businesses will have to exude power and ambition, like the Dragon, while at the same time remaining flexible and pliant, like water. This is going to be the year where businesses need to focus on forging strong interpersonal relationships through communication, persuasion, and collaboration,” concludes Xenopoulos.
Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.
The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.
Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.
Establishing a preparedness programme
Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.
Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.
Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.
If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Building a digital foundation
In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.
To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.
Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.
There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.
When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.
Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.
Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.
Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.
There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.
Five variables to address ahead of a crisis
- Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
- What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
- How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
- What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
- Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.
Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)
Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.
Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
The Risks of Social Media
Lost Working Hours
The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.
With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.
Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.
15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.
The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.
It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.
This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.
How Can a Social Media Policy Help?
Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.
A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.
Is Your Content Golden Enough?
Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business.
Leading digital researcher, GroupM, suggested in their annual ‘State of the Digital’ report that marketers should convey a brand message “within the first second” of every social video. Not to take the shine off your expectations, but if today’s CMO’s don’t level up and grab consumers’ attention on-play, your video is going straight to the dump heap. No stickiness, no interest, no shares no thumb stopping. Nothing. Nichts. Nada.
Golden content is what we strive for: Videos, podcasts and solid written content with that Midas touch; content that will seize that first second and shake the shares out of it. Take a breather for a while and read our ‘gold-to’ guide for best digital practice in business:
1. Hold it Before You Load It
You know what you want to sell, and you have a strong message to go. Stop right there. Before you dive for the upload button, do the 5-point sense check first:
- Is this post too long, too short, too strong, too soft?
- Will the post deliver better results on Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or YouTube?
- Do I want audience engagement or audience awareness
- What do I want to get out of this post?
- What do I want my audience to feel and/or do with this post?
When you’ve answered these questions, and you’re clear about the what’s and how’s then, by all means, take that upload button and give it horns.
2. Get off The Island: Let Video, Audio & Lit Work Together
One of the great benefits of digital is the opportunity to collaborate your communication in the same post, using audio, visual and literature, to get your message across. When you create a podcast, use your literature platform to support the podcast, with a strong rationale, call to action or written article.
Same applies to video: You should have a transcript or article supporting that video, to better land your message. And if you’re featuring written content as the star attraction (blogs aren’t dead, yet!) it will benefit greatly from keywords, images and diagrams that grab attention – or better yet, a throw forward to a film piece that adds juice. Golden content is not an island, it doesn’t need to live alone in order to make an impact.
3. Get The Experts On Board
From your social media to your online video it is vital that your brand is authentic and in a way that fully represents the values of your business, brand, and offering. Choose the right agency to help you create content that is truly Golden and help streamline that content to ensure it works holistically in delivering your brand message to your target audience.
Working with the right team can make all the difference when it comes to creating above average content that connects with your audience. Choose an agency with experience in creating content that is Golden. Speak to So Interactive for expert advice on creating golden content for your brand.
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