“Social (insert job title here)” has been a huge fad whose time is up. Just like “Tech” was big in the 1990s, “Social” took over in the late 2000s. In the mid-1990s, if you could set up a website for an organization you were a Big Deal- a tech guru. But by the early 2000s as webpages became easier to create and software companies began to standardize their programs, the “Tech-“ jobs began to dry up. Computer skills were assumed, and while setting up the wireless network still generates a fair amount of cursing by and large the IT person can handle it- no all knowing tech guru needed.
The same thing is happening with social media. There was a glut of positions incorporating the term “social”. Companies created social media accounts seemingly along the logic that more is always better. “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and “Hootsuite” were included on resumes where Microsoft Word and Excel has previously been.
Now in 2013, the hype over social media jobs has died down. Indeed, within many quarters, managing social media channels is the duty of the intern. A large part of this is because no one was able to figure out the ROI (Return of Investment) for a Facebook Page or Twitter account. So they downsized to an infrequently updated account with posts consisting of “We are excited to announce the rollout of [insert product here]”. And for most Twitter is just a mystery. Brands now have social channels because they know that are supposed to have them in the same way that you’re supposed to have a website. The direction is “keep things updated” in the same way that the front page of a website is updated. Investment is spent instead in integrated marketing campaigns- things that have a specific ROI tied to marketing. This is not to knock these types of campaigns- indeed they work very well. My point is that integrated marketing is just the tip of the iceberg of the potential of social media. It’s right to move away from the hyphenated job titles- the hype is over. But this does not mean that social strategy should stop.
A social strategist is empowered with the mandate to implement and execute strategy. A social strategist knows what social media can and can’t do. They are simultaneously big picture and detail oriented.
Several Brands have chosen to take the leap and invest in social strategy. By doing so they have generated a powerful network of advocates and influencers and also made a name for themselves within the social media community as innovators in their own right.
Casestudy 1: General Electric
GE wanted to communicate that they do more than create light bulbs. So they embarked upon the “innovation” campaign and included social strategy as a key component. A social media strategist knows that the power of social media comes from tapping into the pre-existing social media communities in a way that is keeping with the reason that individuals interact with these communities.
GE utilizes Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr in their campaign but, and this is where the social strategy comes in, each has a specific type of content designed to maximize the outreach to the target communities in a way that will spark conversation. But all content revolves around the concept of “innovation”. Coming away from these pages that’s the word that you come away with. That’s why it matters and that’s the ROI. A social strategist will insist that you clearly define your goals and then create a strategy to match that.
Casestudy 2: Maesrk
Maersk decided that they wanted to be more than a shadowy shipping line. They’re a fascinating case because they are purely B2B. The average person is never going to give them money. But they recognized that in the age of faceless corporations there was considerable utility in generating a positive brand image. Other brands will want to work with you. The wisdom of this was borne out when one of their ships accidentally killed a whale. Of course the outcry occurred on social media. Since they already had defined social channels and had built up a community, they were able to genuinely respond to the situation with concern. They even created a Pinterest board in memory of the whale.
Maersk specifically decided to “unmask” themselves and create a community. Every piece of content they create, every social channel that they use, works towards this goal.
If you do not have a clear strategy behind using your social channels you are missing a huge opportunity. As far as ROI is concerned, it’s best to think of it in terms of measurable projects with set goals just as you would for an ad campaign. Demanding a per-tweet or per-post ROI while the campaign is on-going is just like demanding a per-billboard ROI.
Hire a good social strategist, clearly communicate your goal, give a set budget, and watch them go. Your brand is already present on social. Even if, like Maersk, you are far removed from the B2C scene, you are only one accident or blunder away from becoming a trending hashtag.