I was recently interviewed by Adela Ondruskova, Director Professional Training, marcus evans, in preparation for a social media training session I am running for them in December. The questions focused on how to capitalize on ROI driven social media marketing campaigns and the need for effective social media strategies and implementation. Attached is the interview.
Q: Andrea, can smart social media strategy be considered a powerful source of competitive advantage? How? Are current corporations aware of the potential?
A: Yes, smart social media strategy can definitely be considered a source of competitive advantage. By allowing companies to effectively and inexpensively reach new markets, create new brand identities, develop and test new products, provide superior customer service and better understand customer and market needs, companies that use social media can definitely have an advantage over those who don’t. I believe many companies are aware of the potential but have let resistance to change or fear hold them back.
Q: Why do you say that it may now be a requirement? What has changed?
A: The stakes have definitely changed. When television was first introduced, companies transitioned ads from radio to the new medium. When Internet commerce was first introduced, consumers and organizations discovered a whole new way to buy and sell. I think social media represents a similar transition. The old ways will remain, but a new and powerful way of doing business has emerged. To ignore it will put companies at a disadvantage and may relegate them to failure.
Q: In your opinion, can social media improve your online reputation?
A: Social media has the power to both improve and hurt reputations. Not being aware of what is being said about one’s company is problematic. There are many examples of companies who were hurt because they did not know how to effectively counter negative publicity in a world where things can go viral and anyone can publish. On the other hand, a well crafted campaign that fully utilizes the potential of on-line communities and networks can work wonders for a brand.
Q: What are some of the concerns that companies have as they implement social media solutions?
A: Unlike traditional forms of marketing where the power resides in the hands of the marketers and their carefully crafted messages or programs, social media shifts the power to those receiving the messages. It is not a passive medium but is about participation and collaboration. Companies need to be comfortable giving up control. In addition, organizations need to understand that their employees can be powerful brand ambassadors and that they too are participating in social networks. Employees need to have training and social media guidelines need to be in place so that employees have an understanding of what appropriate and inappropriate behavior is in this context.
Q: What are the main advantages of the current “digital culture”?
A: I believe we are entering an era in business where boundaries are being broken and communications are shifting from one-way to two-way. From a product development perspective it allows for more creativity and collaborative innovation. For customers, a digital culture allows their voices to be heard and for them to get the kind of service and support that rarely exists anymore. And for employees, a digital culture provides them with greater participation, access to decision makers and thought leaders and hopefully results in greater satisfaction and loyalty. A digital culture is the antithesis of the traditional bureaucratic organization where power, information and control are invested in the hands of a few.
Q: What do see as the “next big thing” in terms of social media?
A: I think the whole area of mobile computing and location based services will take social media to the next level. We have already seen the popularity of sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla and with Facebook getting in the game, it is clear that there will be an explosion in the use of these capabilities for product promotions, contests, etc. In fact with the exponential growth in smart phone usage, I think phones will soon become the primary way most of us access social media sites.
Q: Do you see any downside of this explosion in social media and mobile communications?
A: Social media is a tool, and like all tools it can be misused. I think it is important to have privacy limits and make sure that there are not abuses. There will always be unscrupulous individuals and organizations that do the wrong thing. I believe we will see governing bodies emerge so that this is monitored and punishments are levied. The good thing about this medium is that it is open, so when things are not done properly complaints are raised quickly and loudly. We have seen both Google and Facebook stumble and correct themselves and I am sure there will be many others who attempt do to objectionable things and get quickly chastised.
Q: What is your unique perspective on this?
A: I have a fairly unique perspective in that I have worked cross-functionally, holding leadership roles in Human Resources, Communications and Marketing. This has enabled me to understand the complexity of introducing this type of change in organizations. I have also spent the majority of my career in technology and have worked on cutting edge strategies that have fundamentally shifted the way business gets done and messages are communicated. While, I understand the traditional way marketing, communications and advertising operate; I also recognize the benefit of introducing new capabilities into the mix. My perspective is holistic, with a focus on integrated marketing and end-to-end organizational strategy. Finally, while I understand the current environment, my work on future trends has also given me the insight into where things are heading.
Q: What are the key areas you will cover in the training course? What will be the main takeaways for the training attendees?
A: Participants will learn how social media is changing business, communications and marketing and will understand what works, what doesn’t work and why. They will learn how to improve brand perception and manage online reputations, better target marketing efforts, gain insights into customers and competitors, leverage YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social network channels and understand mobile applications and how they are changing the game.