Many marketers tout the value of social media conversation. But to a business both now and in the future this means little. Really this indicates a focus on tactics rather than strategy and results. It’s like touting the intangibles of endless chatter.
Social media’s true end result is not the over-discussed cliche "conversations" that everyone cites as the primary reason to market with social media. It’s a psychotic, engaged rabid fan base that touts your good tidings. Conversation is just the raw harvest that yields the silk to be weaved into a fine, priceless garment.
The following video (1:30) executed in Europe by Robin Good with Sami Viitamäki, a Social Media specialist for TeliaSonerra, Finland’s main telecom company, is titled, “Social Media: What social media is all about conversations.” It demonstrates both the marketers over reliance or focus on conversation, and the latent true value a company gets through engagement and other intangibles.
For the socially-enabled enterprise or socialprise, the end results of engaging diverse stakeholder communities of customers, partners and employees cannot be valued. Conversation is a process towards personal engagement, just like co-creation, collaboration and crowdsourcing (see Now Is Gone for basic definitions). People want to be a part of something bigger. Let’s look at some examples:
Customers engaging in conversations with brands, and in some cases, crowdsourcing. This is not new. Consider the many Harley Davidson fans who enjoy customizing and creating their own bikes. They are some of the most loyal customers out there, and they participate in real-life events with the company. Social media just makes it easier to let customers engage with the company by crowdsourcing, talking and co-creating.
Today’s global workforce needs to be engaged and co-created through networks. Companies like AT&T are forced to find qualified workforce members in other nations. They need to travel through the ether to transcend diverse cultures, timezones and places and effectively function as a business. Businesses like IBM use social tools like Second Life, blogs and microblogging networks to facilitate this kind of globally engaged workforce.
Partners, clients and potential business opportunities are also a critical part of the social networking environment. Recruitment and talent management continues to be one of the new burgeoning areas of social media (See Jim Stroud’s excellent blog on this topic). Again, another form of using these tools to engage the socialprise’s stakeholders.
So you see, for the socialprise of today and tomorrow, they don’t want the conversation, necessarily. It’s the end result of an engaged community that matters. The resulting brand loyalty and commitment from all stakeholders becomes the top benefit of any social media form. That’s not to discount many of the other possible benefits. Here are just a few:
- Increased sales
- Enhanced, viral brand reputation
- Feedback on products and services
- Better customer service
- True understanding of customers’ pain points and needs
- Increased search engine optimization
Etc., etc. Note that none of these results are conversations. Instead the conversation was the process by which they were achieved. Businesses and enterprises will look for these results to measure their communications rather than get caught on nebulous intangibles such as number of comments.
This is the fifth and final part of Social Media’s Role within Global Businesses. Past episodes were:
- Part I: Beyond the Echo Chamber (Social Networks Impact on Business)
- Part II: The Future: Social Networks Will Fly Like a Led Zeppelin
- Part III: Marketing Departments Become Two-Way
- Part IV: The Science of Listening