Isn’t it Time your Social Media Team Grew Up?

Social media teams tend to be young- dominated by the under 30’s and regularly infiltrated and invigorated with fresh batches of under 21s. And what’s wrong with that? It makes perfect sense that the demographic who have grown up with social media are the most likely to feel comfortable with it and have a natural affinity with it.
Generation Y and Z have embraced the connectivity and community social media offers in both their personal and professional lives. Often against resistance from the established business echelons, these (often very) young professionals have been the key drivers in convincing companies of the power and value of social media- understanding the democratising force it has had for consumers and that it is at a brand’s peril to ignore it and not engage.
So you have solved one problem in your organisation. You hired a young bright individual or team to take care of your social media. Naturally you ask for measurement of success. But do you really know what that success looks like, and how do you establish ROI?
One of the great frustrations we hear from aspiring individuals in social guises is that social media is too often put into a silo and measured on its own without context. For example, using the number of retweets or likes to record campaign success instead of looking at true engagement or seeing social as part of the overall on and offline strategy driving awareness, leads and sales. Or better still, analysing social data and using its teachings about your customers to optimise media, marketing, PR, sales strategies.
Another hindrance for social teams is that the C-suite still often treats social data as inferior to other data relied on and revered by businesses.
The common thread is the fact that so many senior executives are still not taking social media seriously in terms of the insight that it offers and the ability to use it to augment other data points for strategic decision making. Instead, they are content that the “kids” have the tweets and likes flowing and sentiment is more green than red, without considering the much greater value and ROI social media could actually deliver for them.
It’s time that the social team was allowed to grow up. They have ideas. They believe in the value of social media both as a medium and a data source to help steer businesses and brands to success. It’s time for BIG Data to include its little brother social data when looking at the rich tapestry that is consumer behaviour and trends to answer real business questions.
Social media is rich in historical trends and insights which reveal how your business fits your customers and why. Those same trends can also be utilised to predict whether you will continue to fit with them in the future. With the ability to express and broadcast opinions about brands, products, services, and companies on social media, today’s consumers are more powerful than ever before. And consumers are more complicated than ever before, with complex, eclectic interests and extensive digital footprints. Paying attention to their conversations, their wants and interests gives businesses insight to make pre-emptive changes and improvements- it’s now imperative businesses do so and recognise the potential value of their social media teams in unlocking this information.
But the social media teams themselves also have a part to play when it comes to their “growing up”. They have a responsibility to meet the c-suite half way and learn to talk their language. Senior management is used to analysing structured transactional data and not unstructured sources like social data, so social teams need to frame it in this context. Use practical examples of where data insight could add immediate value, for example informing which new product feature should receive investment first, and tie everything back to metrics and goals of informing business strategy to increase profitability.
Social media should be so much more than vanity metrics; is all about the questions you ask of it, the answers you get, and how you can use these for competitive advantage and financial gain. The “grownups” need to use it, and the “kids” need to prove it!
Originally published in Digital Marketing Magazine on 26th March 2015:

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