Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Social Media Is Not the Solution for Every Business Situation

Despite the media hoopla surrounding Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking options these days, social media is not the solution for every one and every business situation. That fact is very eloquently expressed in today's Ad Age Digital by Judy Shapiro's excellent post "Not Every CEO Needs to Be a Social Media Star". Read the full article at http://tinyurl.com/m47tut.

Ms. Shapiro addressed the recent media headlines that denounced Fortune 100 CEO's as "social media slackers" based on their low participation on Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs. She, in turn, chastises the media for their lack of understanding and empathy with the tasks and responsibilities of a senior executive with a major corporation. Her article points out that CEO participation in social media is "fraught with practical, business and strategic risks".

Many CEO's don't have the luxury of being able to express their personal opinions or expose their personal lives for practical as well as business reasons. If a CEO mentions that he particularly likes or dislikes a company or product, his statements can be misinterpreted by the business community or the blogosphere as stock manipulation. In 2007, there was a major web scandal when the CEO of Whole Foods Markets wrote anonymous blog posts about Wild Oats Markets in an effort to drive down their stock price before buying the company.

Fastlane, a blog by General Motors CEO, Bob Lutz, has been lauded by the press as a great example of social media from a major company (I suppose we can still call GM a major company). But the truth is that most of the Fastlane posts that I read are nothing more than a disguised advertisement for their cars.

There is also the practical side to using social media that CEO's must consider. To effectively use social media as a business tool requires time and commitment. Anyone who has run a company knows that time is a valuable commodity that must be carefully monitored and utilized. As Ms. Shapiro points out "not every communication challenge is a nail to be whacked by the social media hammer".

So how does this relate to new business development? Simply put, don't try to apply a social media solution to every new business selling opportunity. As I have said in previous posts, social media can be a valuable new business tool for ad agencies. And social media can be valuable as a topic for starting a discussion with prospects, since many clients are overwhelmed by the fast pace of change and need help in deciphering how to employ social media as a marketing tool.

But social media is not the solution for every business situation. And I'm willing to bet there are CEO's who would appreciate your empathy and understanding of their reluctance to use social media tools.

Use social media as part of your new business arsenal, but use it wisely!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Its Time for Ad Agencies To Tweet and Blog For New Business

If you're one of those misinformed souls who think that Twitter is just a fad and that blogging takes too much time to be considered, think again. Yes, it's true that Twitter "churn" is high and that many people join and don't use or drop out quickly. And it's true that blogging takes a lot of time. But more and more businesses are discovering the power of social networking as a business development tool, and the blogosphere and Twitter continue to grow in importance every day.

As social networking invades the corporate world, more and more clients are coming to the realization that they need a strategic plan to incorporate social networking into their marketing program. This represents a great opportunity for ad agencies to step in and help their clients and prospects develop and implement a winning social media strategy.

A recent study by Anderson Analytics reports that 60% of the online population uses one or more forms of social networking. The average social network user is online five days per week four times per day for about one hour a day in total. Importantly, the fastest growing segment of social networkers are aged 45 - 55, according to Forrester, so social networking is being embraced by all age groups. That equates to 110 million users who are actively engaged in social networking every day. That's a number that is simply too large to ignore.

Ad agencies that are successful in new business are able to find and solve a marketer's "pain point", and right now there is no bigger pain point for clients than trying to determine why and how to use social media. Many marketers are simply overwhelmed by the complexity and pace of change with the new technology tools and media that are available. They simply don't know where to start, and your agency become an invaluable asset by becoming the catalyst to help them embrace this new digital marketing world.

And the larger need for most marketers is not just how to write a blog or use Twitter, but how to use email, mobile marketing, viral marketing, pay-per-click, user-generated content, etc. in conjunction with traditional media to create the most impact and return on investment. At a recent conference on social media, the presenter observed that "social networking is still the wild west. There is no order yet and clients are desperate for help".

The hottest topic today is Twitter, and many skeptics contend that the phenomenon is how the "narcissistic keep in touch with the feckless"(see The Ad Contrarian (http://tinyurl.com/mmohft). But even this harshest of critics admits that Twitter has value as a tactical tool for retailers and as a customer relations tool for most marketers. Recent case studies have been published by a number of sources promoting the positive impact that Twitter has had on business in every category.

A recent Business Week article "Twitter Dominates CMO Social Network Plans" (http://tinyurl.com/mcentt) lends credence to the need for ad agencies to embrace this tool and use it as leverage in new business prospecting. The article contains an excellent overview of the social networking world as it stands today and can give your agency guidance on how to approach clients and prospects.

Agencies should also check out a new study commissioned by Michael Steltzner, titled "Social Media Marketing Industry Report - How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses" (http://tr.im/rLVY).

Whatever you do, do something. There's an old saying that when you stick your head in the sand, you leave your backside exposed. In this case, you leave your business exposed.