Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

22 May 2012

Social Strategy. It's Complicated.

This Buddy Media/Luma Partners illustration of the complex social media marketing mix is about as hairy as you want to make it; all the brands featured here aren't necessarily going to play a role in your marketing campaign. But it does show to what degree social media marketing's become -- what's the word they used? -- right, complicated.

Let's talk about pitching social strategy from the outside. This is a scenario that happens more and more often. 

When I go into a pitch there are so many things to teach, so many routes that lead into others, so many platforms to walk the client through, and worse still, half of them still can't see past Facebook. Let me clarify: they don't know what any of this other stuff is, but they somehow always "know" that they "need" Facebook. (Indeed, many will admit that their less sophisticated markets haven't got a website up, but nonetheless found the time to produce an empty Facebook page generating handfuls upon handfuls of gratuitous Likes.)

You've prepared your presentation. It is neat, logical and has a clear chronology. It is loaded with helpful charts. You get into the work of rehashing the pitch, elaborating your spin on the pitch, identifying certain existing challenges between Consumer and Corporate. Then you begin selling Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter for CRM and whatever-else-have-you. You show how each contributes to the consumer journey and leads to certain calls to action, certain touch points. They will be trackable in real-time, with KPIs that, over the long-term, carry the brief to its solution. They will be unified in design and in message. They will be manned by a dedicated person(s) trained in crisis management, who knows the company well and ideally comes from inside it.

Blank looks. "Where's Facebook?" somebody says. "What is all this other stuff?"

You put Facebook in its proper context. Slowly. Then you leap to the addendum slides explaining what those other things are, their figures, their respective growth trajectories, and why they're relevant to the market in question, but already that's another conversation so loaded with information that you know -- while talking -- that none of this will be retained. Then some smartaleck in the back of the room opens his laptop, checks out Pinterest, runs a search for his brand and -- hey presto! -- finds some crazy naked lady who's used a Sharpie to draw "makeup" on her face. He snickers and shows it to his seatmate. She has a freakout and turns to you and says, "This is not for us, we can't be associated with it, and by the way, what's the ROI of social media?"

The ROI of social media. 

What the hell did you guys bring me in for if you're still debating that question?

So suddenly it becomes your role to sell social media as a whole, which you thought they had already come to terms with because they brought you here to pitch a strategy to them. (Whose idea was it to organize that before the leaders weren't ready?)

You give the earned media spiel, run quickly through some case studies that you kept in your pocket just in case to demonstrate how social media better engages customers, rallies customers, improves employee productivity and brand perception, lowers R&D spend, lowers marketing budgets, lowers product development costs, lowers PR rates. Among other things. You show how it can be transformative. You pass around a David Armano illustration of how a company can move slowly in the direction of transcendence.

"We don't care about any of those things, we have sales people," somebody says, pointlessly. "We've never really needed to talk to the consumer. This is not that kind of company."

You circle back to THE BRIEF! and your step-by-step path to the aforementioned transcendence, which you hope will bring everyone back to the matter at hand. They keep staring at you, less blankly now and more with smirks. They are still asking about Facebook and ROI. At this point you're not sure what kind of answer they're looking for because you're pretty sure you covered everything in the whole universe excepting particle physics, was anybody taking notes? Is this game rigged? You're starting to talk in circles, little clich├ęs, and the heads of marketing are giving each other knowing looks.

You go home, defeated and spent after having stolen a donut in the lobby. You get feedback a week later. Social strategy's been pushed back for now, you're told. The company's decided it's not a priority, and your presentation was not at all what they expected. 

"Why?" you ask.

"There was no clear recommendation," they say. Oh, and by the way? "There are currently also no plans to engage in e-commerce of any kind, at least not directly to customers, so the work was irrelevant. There are sales people for that."

And then you just die.


Provisio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nii A. said...

Yikes sounds brutal

Emily Binder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Binder said...

Fortunately, I've found acceptance with more of an ROT than ROI approach with social. However, with earned media such as getting blogger reviews of your product or service, this one can be a harder sell. It depends on the product and liability of giving it away, but I feel that there are two next steps in getting acceptance that our digital marketing work is valuable, albeit not easily measurable.

1. See the connection between everything on that messy chart and understand that not only the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) matter. This would have been better served by an infographic than a cluttered chart. I've seen webs where the networks have relational size and position. Those are also cluttered, though.

2. Realize that traditional advertising feels safe because it is familiar, but much of that is not measurable or reliably measurable, e.g. CPM on a billboard or print ad.