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You can’t get out what you don’t put in

October 15, 2010

A short Twitter exchange recently unearthed some angst I’ve buried about business of social media. Two years ago when I started my full-time role as a social media manager, there was a lot of heady wonder at the opportunity social networking held for businesses and our customers. Social networking was “free,” after all, so why not toss our cap in? I believe that time+people=success, and my tweet that “‘Free’ kills SoMe at budget time” is about how frustrating it can be to catch budget dollars for something that’s supposed to be “free.” Even if a Twitter account is free, it takes time, effort, and thoughtful stewardship to result in something relevant. The same goes for any social network. But in times when budget is tightly limited, and new headcount is even more rare, what’s a SoMe marketer to do?

Even after two years, “ROI” is still the primary concern I hear and read from execs and marketing managers. The angst that’s surfacing wants to taunt those managers and demand to know why they want Return in a space where Investment is still scarce. Sure, the Powers That Be might throw a few people at social media to see what they could accomplish on a shoestring budget. But aside from a few notable and high-profile companies, I don’t see businesses, on a wide scale and especially in the B2B space, truly investing in social media.

Successful investment requires

  • Upper management, including IT, displays tangible support of social media: Budget decisions and business objectives begin at the top. Without executive buy-in from the top-down, social media projects will remain last-minute additions that are forced to tin-cup for resources. And money speaks loudest, whether it’s headcount, equipment, or service providers. Lip service only goes so far.
  • Headcount is allocated, educated, and developed in-house: A company’s brand is reflected in its people. Yes, sometimes you need to bring in fresh ideas to shake things up, but don’t you want your most public interactions driven by someone who knows your company inside and out? Knowledge is one of a organization’s most treasured (and oft overlooked) jewels—cultivate it and show it off! When you find someone that is knowledgeable, passionate, and motivated, put them in a place where their light will really shine. This requires flexible organization planning, another of those corporate details that seems to get hidden away during tough economic times.
  • Social media participation reaches all ranks of an organization: Social media is, well, social. Sure, you need dedicated people setting the course and providing the foundation, but social media should be embraced throughout an organization. Again, make the most of your organizational knowledge and empower employees at all ranks to represent your brand.
  • Marketing services become both shared and dedicated: To make that organization-wide spread feasible, you’ll need both shared and dedicated resources. Invest in talent for foundational elements that can be shared by all business teams. But those shared resources won’t always have the business-specific expertise or exposure need by some teams, so consider dedicated resources in those teams, too. You could think of it as corporate functional teams bolstered by business unit subject experts.

So when you’re thinking about building your business plans and justifications for next year, be sure to include the Investment that’s required to give you a Return. You can’t get out what you don’t put in.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 22, 2010 10:03 pm

    VERY good points Becca! Even on a small scale I recognize
    the investment I make in the hours I spend with social media tools.
    And it’s so important for those in charge to recognize the negative
    impact a customers bad experience in any given area of the company
    can play in that company’s social media world.

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