Social Marketing is growing, but are you planning the right resources for it?

By Dave Tan, Vice President, Content Solutions

With the latest eMarketer report that social marketing advertising will rise to $1.3 billion in 2010, more and more companies/brands will be actively seeking to get into the space. It’s like web 2.0 again, where it’s on the tips of every marketers tongue, however the internal business case and the resources are not fleshed out yet. I have had many conversations recently on strategies for social media. This certainly is quite different than 12 months ago, as now brands are asking for it as opposed to marketers pushing it. As you can see in the quick comparison graph from Google Insights for Search, Social Marketing has been growing steadily as a term since 2006. Layer in a search terms like “Tweets” and you can see the lift in the past 9 months.

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Increase in Social Media Interest

So as social marketing further permeates and percolates in marketers’ heads, especially with large numbers in advertising revenues following, it is prudent to think through the business case and the resources.

However, as many columns and books (you know the tactic is here to stay when printed business books are in circulation) have pointed out, social marketing takes a lot of work. Of course many brands and businesses need to be in the social ecosystems to at least listen to the conversations. However, beyond listening, the overall strategy of social marketing needs to be treated just like any other marketing tactic and drive towards business objectives and revenue growth. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard marketers say that they have to get into social because their consumers are there and their competitors are there. Rushing in to be there is different than taking the time to figure out the business objectives and revenue outcomes with these social tactics.

So let’s say the business objectives are set. Now who is going to carry it out? In my digital marketing experiences, one of the key missing items in many social marketing strategies is getting the right amount of dedicated resources (people) and putting it in the right department. Missing this step, or only putting one person responsible can quickly lead to failure in the social ecosystem. It may be a symptom of the tactic but there is a belief that these tactics can be easily and cheaply executed through Facebook pages, applications, tweets, etc...

That is just not the case. It’s quite similar to web analytics issues at companies. They could have the best Omniture/CoreMetrics/Unica/Google Analytics implemented system, but if there isn’t a team to properly analyze the data, and gather insights for the business, there isn’t any strategic value.

For social marketing, beyond high level executive involvement, there needs to be dedicated team members who make up a social marketing department to be successful. Often times, it falls on the CMO or SVP of Corporate Strategy, who then delegates to the corporate marketing team. Look across your corporate marketing team. It probably isn’t the biggest department either anymore. As well, we all know that the team is pretty busy. Who else can take this on as a dedicated team that can best monitor the ecosystem, listen, communicate, interact, and evangelize alongside consumers?

Now before fretting about building up a whole new team and adding FTEs, look across your organization for a complementary team. This team does exist. Often times it is a large team too, making it an even better department to be responsible for these social tactics. Across all the brands and companies I have worked for, each had a large team that could easily be deployed for these social activities.

Customer Service. Customer Care. The Contact Center. That’s right. It’s the good ol’ traditional first line of consumer contact that often gets overlooked. What better department to take this on. Many successful companies have already done this (Dell, Comcast, JetBlue, etc). So as you are shaping your foray into social marketing, do spend the time to think about the right group to manage and engage in these consumer interactions, and get the Customer Care group involved as early as possible.


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