Five Questions to Ask Before Starting a Social Media Initiative

Jan Sysmans —  December 16, 2010 — Leave a comment

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in the UK-based B2B Marketing magazine blog series. And, since I think these are points worth repeating (and I wanted to get a blog post out this week!) I am reprinting my thoughts hereAlso note, while it’s true I am too lazy to change spelling back to American English – I think the British English stylizing gives my thoughts a bit of an air of respectability ;)

The explosion of social media over the past several years has certainly begun to make its mark in the business world. What started out as a primarily consumer-driven concept has become big business on many fronts: companies are marketing to customers via social networks; supporting customers and identifying trouble spots via Twitter; and leveraging these new social channels for market research and to qualify leads.

While social channels present an opportunity, companies must not forget the core foundations that actually manage the core data and processes within the organisation. New concepts like ‘social CRM’ are appealing for many reasons. But, ultimately, are not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it is more important to augment existing CRM strategies and systems with social tools – because abandoning core systems could lead to chaos inside the organisation.

To best navigate your move into social CRM, it is useful to ask yourself five simple questions before spending precious time and other resources towards a social media endeavour:

1. Where are my customers and prospects aggregating online?

This seems fairly simple, but might be more complex than it seems.  For large B2C organisations, it may be enough to blast messaging across sites like Facebook. But for more niche markets and products, or more specialised B2B sales models – it may take some more research and listening to your customers before you begin any outreach via social channels.

2. How will this social initiative enhance the customer experience?

Just being social for the sake of being social is useless, and can backfire. For many B2B sales and support organisations, social media should be a means of adding convenience to the sales or customer support cycle – not an intrusive waste of time. Insure that your social interactions are a benefit, not a detractor to the overall customer experience.

3. Am I using social media to hide deeper flaws in my business?

Many companies are using social media as a “band-aid” to hide poor support processes or other problem areas. Customers who tweet about a bad experience get preferential treatment; but what does that really solve?  Before adding layers of social engagement, try to insure your customer-facing processes are already strong before exposing them to the hyper-critical social channels.

4. Who will be responsible for our social outreach?

This is a huge problem area for those looking to jump into social business. If you are going to generate leads, or attempt to handle customer complaints via social media – insure that a proper escalation path is in place. If a customer reaches out via social media and gets no response – it is almost worse than not having a social policy. Insure the right people are in place to quickly and consistently manage inquiries received via social channels.

5. How will I track and measure success?

It is very easy for a social media initiative to create even more data silos, with loads of data not providing insight. However, if you tightly integrate your social tools and data with well-structured existing systems like a CRM tool, you can more effectively track interactions and outcomes. Again, social CRM is not a new concept in itself – we are just using new technology to do what we have always done as  businesspeople: attract and manage customer relationships.

Jan Sysmans

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Jan Sysmans brings 20 years of marketing and product management experience, including particular focus in the software-as-a-service segment, to his role as Senior Director of Product Marketing at SugarCRM. In this position, Mr. Sysmans is responsible for all global product marketing programs for SugarCRM. Mr. Sysmans speaks on behalf of SugarCRM about the value, benefits and future of commercial open source solutions at customer and industry events around the world. Prior to assuming his current role at SugarCRM, Mr. Sysmans was the Enterprise Marketing TME (Technical Marketing Engineer) at Cisco WebEx and Director of Marketing at WebEx Communications. Earlier in his career, Mr. Sysmans held product management positions at PlaceWare, Ensim, Narus, XO Communications and Concentric Network Communications. He also served as the chairperson of the Marketing Communications committee on the SaaS Executive Council of the Software Information and Industry Association (SIIA) from 2006-2007. Jan Sysmans holds a Bachelor of Science in commercial and diplomatic relations from the HUBrussels Business School (Belgium), and a Master of Business Administration in intercultural management from ICHEC Brussels Management School (Belgium). He speaks English, Dutch, French, German and Spanish

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