SOCIAL MEDIA has reached a scale that ensures it is not a fad or merely a vehicle for personal networking. Along the way, some of the most famous brands have been driven into social media by reacting to one of the following:
* a viral customer or employee incident (the "uh-oh" strategy);
* a competitor's activity (the "catchup" strategy); and
* a rush to build a Facebook page and social media presence (the "too big not to be there" strategy).
At best, those approaches prevent a company from capitalizing on the benefits of social media. At worst, a public relations and customer relationship nightmare could ensue. The lesson is to be proactive and to pick a strategy before it picks you.
Social media constantly changes the behavior and expectations of a minority, but it is an influential and growing minority, hidden among customers and employees. Moreover, it suggests that the one-size-fits-all customer service model should be retired.
AVOID FALSE STARTS
The challenge is to understand what is different about social media customers, and why now is the time to consider how and where to engage them. Entry points vary:
* Sales: Revenue-producing options are an attractive entry point, but the case for action is dwarfed by more detailed business cases from traditional channels.
* Service: Growing in popularity, it engages customers at critical moments but is different from traditional service operations, such as call centers.
* Product Innovation/R&D: The promise for outside-in innovation engages customers and employees, but many programs fail as electronic suggestion boxes.
Regardless of the entry point, the complexity of using social media rises over time. As more functions engage, coordination grows tougher. Some teams leap forward to stay ahead of the competition, while others wait to see how the market, regulations, and internal politics develop.
Therefore, someone must coordinate these investments and capabilities. Bottom-up, fragmented approaches do not let large organizations operate social media at scale …