Advice from Internet marketing pundits is becoming like rock and roll was to a previous generation---it sounds like just a bunch of noise. Every blog-as-media-outlet, thought-leader platform, and social technology company's website screams top 10 ways to do this and how-to posts to do that.
And marketing professionals are left trying to filter the wheat from the chaff.
The challenge marketing and brand managers face today, however, is not the basic how-tos of social media. They need less of the top five and top sevens and top 10s, and more content that marries the tactical to-dos and the strategic approach that ties social media marketing into other channels and systems to drive business.
Whether it's the blogs you read, the webinars you sign up for, or the conferences and events you attend, there's got to be a level of push back if these channels aren't answering your questions. It's not just a matter of filtering out the B.S. from the meaty substance anymore. Marketing decision-makers need to hold their trusted resources to higher standards, too. It'll make all of our efforts more effective.
So, if I were marketing your business, here are several questions I would ask when reading blogs, sifting through white papers, or listening to experts and practitioners talk about social media marketing:
Instead of giving me broad advice, can you please cite real examples of companies doing that very thing and seeing success?
Too many of us spout off ideas or hypotheticals when it comes to executing on social media marketing. And not enough of us do the work to say, "Here's how you can do this and here's an actual example that shows it could work." We're far enough along in the social world now that in many cases there are case studies to show proof. Let's see them.
How are these companies budgeting for and around social media? What about staffing?
One company's success story does little for my brand and my business if I don't have a full understanding of how much it cost, how many people they had to throw at it, and how they worked around typical inter-office resistance to social media marketing efforts. Give me deeper context, so I can have a more clear understanding of the situation.
The case study is interesting, but where are the business metrics? What needle did this move for the company?
Like knowing the context of the case studies, if I don't see business metrics, you're just illustrating another example of how wonderful the make-believe world of social media is. I don't want fluff. I want hard numbers that can help me prepare my own strategies.
How did you come about the metrics? What analytics or measurement services or mechanisms provided your data?
It's frustrating to have someone say, "This lowered our call center costs by $64,000," as a flippant aside to a customer service story. Back up and tell me how you were able to determine that number so I can better understand how to find it in my business. Surely you don't think one issue solved on Twitter means that person would have absolutely called the call center? Show me the math.
Speaking of data, where did it come from? What is your sample size? And what's the +/- of that statistical analysis.
Social technology companies anonymizing their own user data is interesting, but perhaps not altogether useful for my specific business. And if your sample size isn't big enough, the data isn't relevant. Further, if you're really offering up research, there should be margins of error and context added to the information, so I don't buy a bill of goods that turns out to be less relevant than I need.
Did you analyze just numbers or did you also look at the content or qualitative data that goes along with your statistics?
Everyone wants to tell me what the data says, but social media marketing is a world predicated on content. Why isn't anyone analyzing the content to know what fosters better engagement? Feed me stats all you want, but I need some analysis, too.
These and many other questions will hold bloggers, speakers, consultants, and the like much more accountable for their advice and information. Better advice and information will make your jobs as marketers easier and the content you consume more effective. We've passed the sandbox stage of social media. It's time to elevate our industry by forcing the tackling of these types of issues.
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