Social Media: Opportunity & Challenge

Increasingly, I believe that, as of now, a dive into social media marketing works more as a high level brand initiative than it does a specific marketing initiative seeking solid ROI (with all the right data of course this will change). My question for a company is always-- why social media? What is the brand's objective for dipping the toe? My old boss HATED this question-- saying never to ask the client but to tell them what the objectives are. I totally disagree with this premise, because as I see it, companies may drink the Kool-Aid for a while, digg around in the social media sandbox, then after a while get bored and say, "well that was fun" because they never really understood why, as a brand, they were there in the first place.

Truly, social media is the chance for brands to take part in the online lives of its consumers, to be useful (vital) and relevant (important), and build better "relationships" (read: brand image & resonance). Sounds so vague, right? Well, right now it is somewhat. As it stands now, what we can demonstrate are results from a social media WOM outreach program which can increase conversations, shift tonal sentiment, impact natural search, and create lift. But not every company wants episodic WOM outreach campaigns in social media. (I qualify WOM with "outreach" because it can be argued that all of social media programs are WOM; "outreach" in social media is more akin to a new form of PR, not necessarily a holistic new approach to marketing).

Like advertising, there is no strong direct correlation between social media programs (be it WOM/outreach; community build/integration; digital content integration/distribution; content & platform SMO) and sales.

The opportunity
is to build brand resonance by being (again) useful (vital) and relevant (important) to consumers' extended lives online, establishing reciprocity with and gaining insight from consumers, and extending influence through relationship-building, thus influencing affinity and eventually sales.

The challenge
is that brands don't like sharing control or risking a presence in which shares control with consumers and/or other brands & influences. Secondly, the most important challenge is measuring this relationship-building, resonance, and influence (and its results on sales). Not too hard, eh?

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