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Gaining Organizational Buy In for Social Media Engagement

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Hello, this podcast is titled "Gaining Organizational Buy-In For Social Media Engagement." My name is Nick Osborne, I'm an interactive product manager at West Corporation and as owner of our social media solutions, I've had the opportunity to see challenges that are faced by any organization which is facing...with any organization which is growing its social media strategies. One of the biggest challenges to a successful strategy is ensuring that it is an organizational strategy, and not driven by silos of activity within your company. Gaining this organizational social media strategy and buying into that strategy has many moving pieces.

One of the biggest things is that you need to have one voice to your customers from all points of contact. The tone, attitude, cadence, all of that needs to be consistent across multiple channels, whether you're talking about marketing, care, storefronts, whatever the messaging may be, and no matter what the channel is, whether it's social, voice, print, web, any channel. It needs to be consistent for your customers. Social is just another channel to communicate with your customers, and they expect consistent experience no matter what channel they're reaching out to you.

In order for this consistent experience, you need to have collaboration between care and marketing. We all know that marketing is traditionally the owner of social media and any program reaching out to the general public. We know that care is traditionally responsible for customer specific inquiries, responding to those inquiries, and taking care of your customers. These come together in social media support. Leveraging the unique skill sets on each side is critical to the success of your program. Marketing has the experience and skills to communicate with large groups, care has the skills and experience to respond to specific customer inquiries. In order to improve the business as a whole, there needs to be coordination between these two groups.

The challenge is communication is not one on one. Traditionally, when communication is going to a group of people, marketing is the owner. Social media creates a unique situation where you will have your care organization responding to multiple customers, even though it may be one customer who's asking the question, their responses actually going to that customer, and their entire network. The message can balloon to a large group very quickly, and it doesn't matter if it's a good or bad message, it's going to balloon. So social is a new channel, it's not a fad, it's not going anywhere. And everyone is learning how to best implement their solutions in the social media space.

One of the things that's consistent across all of these different strategies is the need for leadership by senior executives. Even though social media often starts as a grassroots program due to the accessibility and the free nature of most of the tools, it needs to be led in order to grow and be successful across the entire organization. The only way to do this is through senior executives being actively engaged in an enterprise-wide strategy. Action in pockets can cause problems that may not have been contemplated by those small groups taking those actions. For example, a marketing blog shared across social media going viral and creating a huge volume of calls to a contact center, even though the contact center had nothing to do with the message that was sent.

The same thing could happen if a customer care rep responds in social media in the wrong way to a customer, that response could very easily balloon and create a headache for the marketing organization. Everyone needs to be in the loop and on the same page in order for a social media strategy to be successful. Social represents a unique opportunity for that message, whether it's good or bad, to spread extremely quickly. In order to accurately spread that message and to keep it as positive as possible organizational coordination is critical. Social can send your message out faster than just about any channel, and can reach a large number of engaged audience members.

In order to get that coordination, executive support and involvement in your social strategy needs to be there. Your social strategy is only going to be as successful as the tone set by your senior leadership. Their knowledge, activity, and awareness of your social strategies will have a direct impact on the overall success. In order to have a successful social media strategy, you'll need to have clearly defined goals. Speaking in one corporate voice and presenting a consistent message to your customers is going to require that these goals be clear and be defined at the corporate executive level, and driven throughout the entire organization.

A common driver for entering into a social media strategy is fear, fear of not being involved and left behind. Without goals this is probably going to be more dangerous than not being involved. Another common driver for social media is ROI. Driving towards a measurable ROI is important for any business decision, in order to measure that our ally you're going to need clear corporate goals. Traditional dollars and cents ROI models may not be the only way to measure your success in a social media strategy. Working towards more specific goals should be your true measures of success. In order to measure the success of these goals, you need to look at it in a different way, and you need to start thinking instead of return on investment, looking at your return on relationships.

The traditional "spend money to make money" ROI model does not always apply in the social media space. While it can be measured, it's not the only thing that's going to drive value through a social strategy. One of the best ways to measure your success is to baseline key metrics, and then measure towards those goals as your social strategy evolves. Improving your process efficiency and effectiveness is also a key driver around social return. One of the other things that we're looking at is a return on relationship. Building loyalty, measuring this through reduced churn and increased repeat customers, building the number of brand advocates or unpaid advocates on social communities, and other things along these lines that measure the return on relationship are an extremely valuable part of any social strategy.

Another key point to gaining organizational buy-in, is that everyone benefits. This is more than just care or marketing. Everyone has a stake in new social strategy. Sales can leverage social media strategies to ID prospects, identify up-sales and cross-sell opportunities, and to overall build their knowledge of existing customer base. Product management can benefit from social media in many ways, including research and enhancements, learning about what's coming next in the market, researching competition, and understanding customers opinions. Executives can benefit by keeping their fingers on the pulse of public sentiment about the company, its brands, and its products.

Everyone benefits from a well-organized organizational social strategy. So, in summary, there are a few key points to keep in mind when you are looking to gain organizational buy-in for a social media strategy, and to create and execute that social media strategy. It needs to be driven through your executive leaders. This is something that needs to happen from the top down. Cooperation and coordination across groups is going to be critical no matter how small the organization, or how large, that coordination is a key point. Your real returns are going to be measured based on the success of the people and the processes and the improvements around those that are gained. You're going to show value by measuring towards goals, and clearly defined corporate goals, not just individual, departmental, or smaller scale goals. And it's critical to keep in mind that with a social media strategy, everyone benefits.