The Five Questions Companies Ask About Social Media

I just visited a client who had several groups in their company doing quite a bit around social media (they are trying to answer the 4th and 5th question). They were what I call “walking” and were on the verge of “running”. Often, when I meet companies for the first time, I try to find out which of the following questions that they are answering, as it determines their level of sophistication.

As one might expect, brands in tech, media, and some consumer goods are more advanced, and finance, insurance, and sometimes government are trying to answer the first questions.

Five questions companies ask about social media:

What is Social Media?
For many folks, corporations, the question to answer was “What is a BloB”. Blogging was the primary tool that we saw in the marketplace, for some, it wasn’t taken seriously, for the savvy, they quickly adopted. We saw scare tactics from the threatened mainstream media, such as “Attack of the Blogs” and light of amateurisms, angry customers and crazies were painted. For many, we wanted to know what are these tools, how to they work, and what’s the impact. Early on, this impacted corporate communications, PR, and mainstream media.

Why does it matter?
As we’ve evolved, many were realizing the impact of exploding batteries, brand hijacking, and blog evangelism. Savvy companies were starting to adopt these tools, a few provided integrated communities that were scrapped together or built from existing platforms. For the majority, trying to understand why these tools matter to a business. In addition to corporate communications, PR, we started to see other marketing and business units being impacted by these tools, as well as adoption.

What does it mean to my business?
We’re here now. This is the year of ROI, measurement, and experimentation. Many corporations have deployed resources, headcounts and budgets. Corporations are afraid to make mistakes, so plans are created, and measurement is critical to help manage and prove the worth of new programs. ROI was proven, new social media measurement attributes were defined, and many new tools were deployed, I did what I could to further this industry (see all posts). In addition to Corporate Communications and PR, business units are starting to experiment with these tools, often out of the PR budget. A new role started to appear more frequently, the digital marketing manager, the community manager, the social media strategist.

How do I do it right?
Now that experimentation is done, and business units are starting to apply these tools, like advertising, PR, field marketing, and customer references, companies will want to do it right. Frameworks will be developed, consultants will offer packages, and a loosely developed process will be used. For companies that don’t have enough internal resources to listen, manage, and deploy, consultants will be a very sought after service. Nearly every brand will start to have an ongoing budget for social media, the new role to manage these tools will appear. IT departments will start to deploy enterprise 2.0 tools.

How do I integrate across the Enterprise
Normalization is happening, A checkbox for ’social media’ on every announcement, product launch, product development and support will be using these tools. Social media tools to listen, converse, collect knowledge, and build new products will integrate across the customer cycle. It’s not just external, intranets will start to deploy suites for collaboration, such as blog accounts issued to many internal and external employees. Product Teams, IT departments, HR, Finance, Executives, and of course Marketing will be using these tools.

This post, for the most part is a rehash of what I’ve posted nearly a year ago, but I think it holds merit to discuss again

Update: June 10th. I’ve scheduled 52 inquiry calls with clients since April 2008. Inquiry calls are 30 minute discussions with clients that want to pick our brains, and I tell them everything I know that will help them meet their business objective. While the range of questions wily varies, most are asking questions 3, 4, 5.

What question is your company, or your clients trying to answer, this is often a good post to send to your internal teams and try to trigger a discussion.