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Building trust on your brands using social media tools

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Social Media Strategy
Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools
By Varadharajan Krishnamoorthy
www.varadh.com
Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools


Abstract:


        Social media and the adoption of social media...
Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools


part of the strategy. For example, if your strategy is to monitor...
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Building trust on your brands using social media tools

  1. 1. Social Media Strategy Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools By Varadharajan Krishnamoorthy www.varadh.com
  2. 2. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools Abstract: Social media and the adoption of social media tools are grabbing significant mainstream attention as brands realize the importance of harnessing the ideas and conversations with their customers. Every organization can achieve this by adopting a right social media strategy. One of the important ingredients of this strategy is the use of right set of tools that will protect the brand as well as open up new vistas. In this whitepaper, we will explore the importance of selecting the right set of tools and see how app stores/directories play an important role in providing neutral and honest recommendations so that organizations can select the best tools for their social media strategy. Introduction: Social Media is a generic term for tools designed to aid online social interactions. To be specific, it refers to tools that help people have conversations online, on topics that matters to them. These conversations can be through Blogs, Wikis, Social Networks and many other tools. Social media tools help businesses establish their presence on the web, optimize their business processes and interact with their customers. Even though critics and traditionalists dismiss Social Media as hype, this is not the case. Social Media is firmly established as an important weapon in the toolkit for businesses in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Recent reports point out that visits to Social Media sites has overtaken accessing personal email in the daily activities of internet users and these numbers are growing fast. Social Media not only helps achieve better communications but also makes it easy to collaborate with team members, partners and clients in a more productive way. In short, Social Media is a necessary component to any business' winning strategy. Businesses have always harnessed the power of word of mouth. Social Media both accelerates and eases the utilization of word of mouth communication. Since Social Media involves two-way conversations, a mere presence in Social Media does not guarantee success. Hence there is a need for a better understanding of the concept and a better strategy to leverage this new phenomenon. It is crucial for businesses to have a proper Social Media strategy as it has already impacted results in the market place. To achieve varied objectives through social media strategy, it is important to select the right set of social media tools as a © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  3. 3. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools part of the strategy. For example, if your strategy is to monitor mentions about you, you should pick a right tool which can monitor what is being said about you all over the web and all at once. Another example could be an application that can aggregate and publish with all social networks becoming an all-round news source. App Stores are market places for such tools and applications. Hence, for such a selection of tools, the social media app stores could be of great help making it possible to design a viable Social Media strategy. In this whitepaper, we will answer some of the questions in the minds of small business owners and top executives in the enterprise, and show how Social Media app stores can help them with their strategy. Understanding Social Media and building trust on your brand: Social Media evokes curiosity and concerns in the minds of business owners and executives. It is quite understandable because of the conflicting information they receive from the media. On one hand we have Social Media evangelists promoting the tools as miracle pills that could bring in overnight success while on the other side we have traditionalists using fear tactics to avoid losing their existing business. This has led to serious confusion among businesses and this whitepaper tries to clear some of this confusion through a set of questions and answers. The questions are selected based on our interaction with various organizations interested in tapping the potential of social media. We have tried to address these questions based on our experience in the traditional marketing world and in the world of social media. 1) Having decided to adopt a social media strategy in our organization, where do we start? The two way conversation between a business and its customers, enabled by Social Media, is changing the way we do business including having impact on management practices, business practices and, indeed, organizational structures itself. Such changes are cultural and the biggest challenge for the business is in adjusting to this new culture. The traditional hierarchy collapses due to these two-way conversations. Hence understanding these new ways and training employees to adapt to these changes is of prime importance. One good practice is to start using Social Media internally in the beginning. This has a two-fold effect. Firstly, this helps businesses decide how these tools will fit within the business objectives and strategies. Secondly it also helps in training employees and makes them accustomed to these tools before using them externally to an organization. The initial internal strategy will help the organization adopt these tools without disrupting the existing workflow. In order to encourage internal © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  4. 4. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools adoption, a reward system can also be created with role-models taking more responsibility. After a successful internal implementation, it can be expanded to partners and customers from the outside world in a gradual manner. Before deciding on a Social Media strategy, it is important to monitor how different businesses are using Social Media tools, especially direct competitors of the business. Such an exercise will give a peek into the cultural changes the business needs to adopt. It is also important to study worst-case scenarios to mitigate risks. Since it may impact upon the brand, it is important to ensure due diligence when planning the Social Media strategy. As a part of your Social Media planning, it is important to identify a unique name and use it across all the social media sites. Like the gold rush for domain names in the Web 1.0 era, there is a rush to grab names that suit various brands. As soon as a name is identified that will be used for the business, it is imperative to register it across all social networking sites to avoid any disappointment later. It is wise to claim the identity of the brand in all these sites with a suitable name and a logo while creating a profile. Profiles within social networks help businesses to position their brands by adding suitable information, pictures and videos. 2) Of the vast myriad of tools available, how do I choose the right tool for our needs? There is no single prescription for selecting Social Media tools. It depends on the business objectives and other factors such as where the target customers are geography, etc... Part of the Social Media strategy is to identify the networks where target customers flock, the nature of the social networks, geography, etc... The Social Media strategy should maximize the impact on these networks at a lower cost. For example, there is no point in targeting a social network for gaming teens if the business is selling products aimed at retired people. Even in general purpose networks, it is important to ensure that there is significant target audience for the amount of human resources the business is going to commit. Once a business identifies the networks to target, it is important to select the correct set of applications and services that will maximize the impact of the brand. Unlike the traditional software world where big companies dominated the software market, Social Media applications and services are developed by thousands of single person or © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  5. 5. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools small companies all across the world. This fluidity in the marketplace leads to security and privacy concerns for users along with concerns about longevity of these tools. On the other hand, since these applications and services serve as a front-end to the social networking services, there is no lock-in, like the traditional software world, and it is easy to switch from one tool to another without any significant disruption to the workflow. Once a business identifies the social networks they want to focus, it is possible to identify the right set of applications and services. In fact, there are many tools that work across many different social networking sites. These tools play a crucial role in ensuring that the business delivers a consistent message across all networks without affecting its brand. There are tools that let businesses administer Social Media usage of employees. Such tools play a crucial role for businesses by ensuring that employees are adhering to the organization's Social Media policies and, also, in preventing rogue employees from damaging the brand. To select appropriate tools for the Social Media strategy, it is wise to hire a consultant or rely on trusted application directories or stores. 3) Are there app stores for social media? If yes, what is their role and why it is unique? Yes, there are app stores for Social Media. App stores are marketplaces for applications and services available for use with different social networking ecosystems. These app stores offer a trusted place to identify and buy applications to be used as a part of the organization's social media strategy. These app stores have applications and services listed around categories with information about the product, the developer behind the application or service, ratings and reviews by the users, etc. Such a categorization and rating system allows users to select the tools appropriate for their social media strategy. To understand the role of Social Media app stores, a comparison to mobile app stores will help. In the mobile market, we have seen app stores for iPhone, Android phones, Windows Mobile, Nokia phones, etc. Some of these app stores are completely controlled by the company behind the phone or operating systems or mobile networks. Some of these companies, like Apple with the iPhone, exert complete control over the applications that are allowed in their stores and their financial models. This centralized model, though undemocratic, allows the company to ensure the quality of the applications that can be used in the phones. On the other © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  6. 6. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools hand, other companies like Google adopt an open model, allowing developers to list their products without any restrictions and lets the users rate/review them to help other users, using a concept called crowdsourcing. Comparatively, Social Media app store trends are still emerging. They are unique in the sense that these app stores, along with crowdsourcing, allows us to tap into our social graph (set of friends we have in our networks) to get trusted recommendations. Like in the case of mobile app stores, we see both a centralized model and an open model. In our experience, app stores implementing an open process are more trustworthy and can help businesses maximize their ROI. 4) How will these app stores fit into our social media strategy? With the advent of social networking tools and applications, there are a myriad of choices to make. App stores make it easier to select the right set of tools that fits well with the social media strategy of the organization. The selection of Social Media tools becomes crucial because it not only helps the organization monitor their brand but also the lack of reliable tools could have a negative impact on the brand. App stores fit into the organization's Social Media strategy in two important ways. First, it helps select the right set of tools with the features that the organization needs via the categorization of applications and the description provided for each application. The user review/rating systems will not only help the organization with reliable applications and services but also aids in mitigating the risks by helping organizations select tools that are compliant with the security and privacy needs of the organization. 5) Can you use traditional knowledge with social media tools? The use of Social Media changes the rules of the game in a big way. Traditionally, the conversations between the business and their customers used to be private whereas Social Media tends to make these conversations public. Traditional approaches allowed a restricted dialogue whereas Social media allows a direct dialogue with all participants with no recognition of hierarchy. Traditionally media results in individual problems remaining singular whereas Social Media can amplify issue en masse. Traditionally, businesses used to have limited © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  7. 7. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools resources whereas Social Media makes their resources virtually limitless. Hence, traditionally, innovation was much slower than what it is today with the use of Social Media. Therefore, it is important for businesses to understand how Social Media has changed their business functions, fine tune the traditional knowledge and apply it with the right kind of tools. 6) What are the PR challenges involved in social media and how to handle them? Social media is about people talking to people. Today, customers are empowered by Social Media. They will talk about products and services all the time and on distributed networks. Organizations might feel that they are transitioning from complete control of their brand to zero control. However, it doesn't mean that Social Media is bad for businesses. Even if businesses ignore Social Media, their customers are going to talk about them and a tactic that sees businesses ignore these conversations has the potential to be greatly damaging. Instead, businesses should adopt an agile Social Media strategy to safeguard their brands. To achieve success, businesses should be sincere in their conversations. They should never try manipulative strategies to undermine their customer reactions. Instead, businesses should convert criticism into an opportunity to reach out to disgruntled customers and convert them into loyal ones. A bad move by a brand in Social Media gets amplified many times, eventually turning into a full scale PR nightmare. To avoid such nightmares, it is important for organizations to devise a smart social media strategy that includes proper policies, training, follow up procedures, etc... 7) How do different verticals use social media? Can you give some examples? There is widespread adoption of Social Media in the Biotech and Pharma sector. In fact, the FDA recently held a Public Hearing on the Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools. For example, there has been an explosion of Twitter users from the Pharma industry. While the FDA guidelines will be welcomed by the industry and will be used to streamline Social Media usage, Pharma and Biotech companies have already embraced Social Media in a big way. Online communities of patient groups are being used for research by Pharma companies. Some companies use corporate blogs to communicate directly to patients and customers. Others have setup community platforms to communicate and share within user- © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  8. 8. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools groups. Video based social networks like YouTube are already tapped by Pharma companies regularly to reach out to customers. Similarly, Physicians have also embraced social media to connect with patients. Patients are tapping into Social Media to find relevant information and, also, to form help groups based on their needs. Real Estate is another vertical where Social Media is used very well. Everyone wants to know everything possible before buying a piece of land or a home from a seller. Social networks fit in perfectly to serve this need for information and make it possible for buyers and sellers to interact directly. Social Media adoption is proliferating in many different verticals from financial markets to government. 8) Do social media require heavy investment? What are the good practices to get a higher ROI? There are no huge capital expenditures but there will be indirect operational expenditures. Social Media tools don't require any big upfront investment because the tools are either free or available at a very low cost. However, the cost of hiring human resources to use these tools should be considered. Without proper planning, these costs could escalate thereby diminishing the returns. In order to maximize ROI, it is important to follow some best practices such as  Understand that Social Media use is part of the business process and strive to develop a smart strategy  Set proper expectations by having short term and long term goals  Select the right set of diverse tools suitable to mitigate any risks  Develop a strategy to measure relevant metrics and use a feedback loop to continually tweak the organization's Social Media strategy  Ensure adequate resources are deployed to engage customers through Social Media This is not a definitive list but the points are designed to highlight the importance of following best practices towards successful implementation of Social Media strategy. If the organization lacks the necessary expertise, we strongly encourage the hiring of reputed consultant. 9) How do we measure the impact of social media? Are there tools available for such metrics? How do I identify such tools? © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  9. 9. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools Social Media can be used both internally and externally. Internally it can be useful to tap the vast distributed knowledge available within the organization. It can also be used for recruiting, training and collaboration among employees. It can be used in projects cutting across borders and time-zones. Externally Social media can be used for Customer Service, Customer/Supplier interactions, customer/supplier feedback and for problem solving, etc... Social Media tools can be used for acquiring new customers and to network with external partners and experts. In order to be successful in such interactions, it is important to measure the impact of Social Media and optimize it based on a continuous feedback loop. Impacts of Social Media can be measured with various metrics depending on the social networks. Some of these metrics include:  Number of Subscribers (Passive customers)  Number of Customer Interactions (Active Customers)  Number of Referrals  Quantitative mentions ratio (How many times your brand has been mentioned)  Positive/Negative mentions Ratio  Comments/Forwards (also called retweets in the case of twitter) Ratio per post  Number of participative actions  Quantifiable increase in customer satisfaction or Sales  Awareness of Brand  ROI calculations by way of leads, sales, conversions, earnings, goodwill etc. etc.  Baseline and the deltas after implementing Social Media Strategy  Activity Time-Lines and Monitoring Sales with appropriate relative metrics These are some examples of metrics that can be analyzed while implementing the organization's Social Media strategy. There are other metrics that can be important depending on the business objectives and Social Media strategies. Monitoring these metrics will help the organization fine tune its activities to be more productive, resulting in a positive engagement through social media. This, in turn, will produce results that can be measured as part of the organization's ROI exercise. The trick lies in monitoring and reading of the metrics to drive the business in a positive direction and a positive ROI. © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  10. 10. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools Measuring the Social Media Impact is somewhat difficult but possible. There are many tools available that can help organizations measure the impact with these metrics. Social Media app stores make it easy to identify the exact tools needed for the purpose. 10) How secure is social media for brands? How do I protect my brand while using social media tools? Security has always and will continue to be the most important part of the business strategy. Social Media Strategy should also include security at its core. The threats include employee behavior, spam, phishing and malware attacks, etc... If unchecked, these threats could significantly damage the brand. With good policies and practices, these threats can be easily mitigated. For example, employee behavior can be managed by proper internal policies and by selecting the right tools that offer fine grained access control. Adopting the right controls, education/training and enforceable policies are some examples of steps that should be taken to protect the brand. It is also important to establish a reward and penalty system within the company to help protect misuse or damage, similar to the systems traditionally in place. Outside threats can be thwarted by following proper security guidelines similar to the ones followed in IT. The organization's Social Media policy should clearly provide guidelines on who owns the content, liabilities, providing information about authorizations, etc... The emergence of app stores will help users and organizations identify bad applications very early and, thereby, avoid damage to the brand and other potential threats. This makes such app stores an important part of the Social Media evolution. Conclusion: In this networked era, every business should adopt a smart Social Media strategy. Businesses cannot ignore Social Media because customers are already voicing their opinion on social networking sites. Lack of Social Media action could lead to loss of market share and brand reputation. In fact, businesses can leverage Social Media to better position their brand and reach out to customers. Such a strategy has very high payoffs with higher ROI than traditional methods. A smart Social Media strategy also involves using the right set of tools and app stores can help businesses leverage these tools effectively. © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010
  11. 11. Building Trust On Your Brands Using Social Media Tools Author’s Biography Varadharajan Krishnamoorthy Chennai, India Varadh, a well-known marketing strategist with special focus on using social media strategy, helps businesses of all sizes with fine-tuned social media consultancy. He believes that every business organization strives to not only expand and enhance their value but also the personal lives of all those involved. He also strongly believes that social media can offer the necessary path to achieve this goal. Varadh has been an independent consultant for the last 5 years. Before that, Varadh has been in domestic and international Pharma Marketing and Business Development for more than 20 years including his stint with MNCs and Indian companies with specialization in the India-Latin America corridor. During his stint as a consultant, Varadh has developed and fine-tuned strategies for businesses to take advantage of new tools of technology which includes Social Media and Cloud Computing. Varadh is also the CEO of CloudsDirect Web Solutions Pvt. Ltd. which offers personalized IT solutions for businesses of all types. He is also an Analyst in the stealth mode boutique analyst firm, The Krish group. More information can be found in www.varadh.com. © Copyright 2010 www.varadh.com 9/22/2010

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