Be Invisible in 2013

Social media marketing has come a long way. In the past few years agencies pulled together teams, marketing teams set aside budget and team members, and the need for education on the benefits of and reason for social media marketing has given way to more mature questions around measurement and integration.

The Rules Have Changed: Paid + Earned

This year it’s become abundantly clear that social media no longer exists in a silo. Everything is social, and social is everything else. This comes with opportunities as well as challenges—one of which is the fact that using Facebook to reach your fans with just an earned approach is become less and less effective. Success is now found when earned and paid approaches work together.

Go Global, Local or Glocal?

National and global brands are faced with two potentially equally appealing options when it comes to managing their brand presence across social channels: have one global presence or create movements at the local level with brand platforms customized by locale.

There really isn’t necessarily a right answer, but there are certainly considerations.

Challenges with an Expanding Social Presence

Brands in the social space are forced to contend with multiple networks, profiles, languages and cultures, even if their presence is only limited to the national level.

One potential solution is establishing a single, unified brand presence across social channels. This helps to keep communication consistent, the team efficient and the look, tone and feel on-brand. However, social media’s greatest opportunity lies in its ability to engage people on their terms and turf online. One unified presence trying to connect with everyone will feel generic at best as the brand is forced to appeal to the lowest common denominator when it comes to communication.

The other option is equally as appealing and imperfect. Brands can mobilize multiple teams to manage their social presence at the local level. This brings the benefit of being able to connect with people on a deeper level while providing more relevant content, leading to higher levels of engagement. The challenge is having different teams, operating independently and potentially fragmenting the brands’ overall social presence.

Go Glocal

The ideal route if a brand can pull it off is a hybrid approach with a single, centralized global team coordinating overarching brand goals, objectives and guidelines, while making local teams responsible for contextualizing content, executing local campaigns and addressing the community.

In order to execute this effectively, among other things brands need:

  1. A Style Guide: Create a framework to ensure all teams are able to be flexible with their social media efforts while remaining consistent on tone and message.
  2. Profile Consistency: All brand profiles should have the same consistent look and feel and be connected with each other to improve profile SEO. Local teams should have the freedom to customize certain elements based on geography and audience. An overarching social media strategy and voice is needed to act as the filter through which all teams can operate freely while staying on-brand.
  3. Workflow/Roles/Responsibilities: Establish a workflow with roles, responsibilities and protocols laid out.
  4. Local Freedom to Explore Opportunities: Use local teams to your advantage by asking them to identify social media opportunities at the ground level.

Different platforms require different levels of detail and effort. Facebook, in particular, makes a glocal approach fairly straightforward. Brands can target posts by geography, and the recently launched global pages allow brands to create a centralized global Facebook Page that displays differently depending on which country a user is viewing the page from.

Evaluate your current approach. Is a single presence connecting at the local level like it should? Do you have the necessary framework to execute at the local level? It’s not easy, but moving toward a glocal approach provides a big opportunity for both national and global brands.

Social Media IS Risky!

Most organizations have two kinds of people when it comes to social media: the believers who are enthusiastic about the potential for social media to help solve business problems and the detractors who see the risks associated with social media and would rather steer clear.

Both groups are right.

The enthusiasts see the potential for social media to benefit the business in a variety of areas from product innovation and customer service to branding and advertising amplification.

The detractors, on the other hand, have legitimate concerns. An August 2012 study from the Altimeter Group found that 35% of respondents cited reputation or brand damage as a critical risk. Other concerns included release of confidential information, compliance issues, identity theft and others.

The Concerns are Justified…

Social media brings an unprecedented level of transparency, and brands don’t have a lot of control when it comes to what employees share. The platforms haven’t done a lot to alleviate fears with password leaks and questionable privacy practices.

The playing field has leveled and lines have blurred. Information moves quickly and can easily get out of control and cause issues for a brand.

The concerns are legit.

…But Overblown and Can Be Overcome

People don’t start discussing a company once it sets out with a social media program. They started discussing it long before that, but the brand at that time had no opportunity to make its voice heard, join the conversation, correct misinformation, embrace advocates and convert detractors. The bottom line is it’s just as risky (or even less risky) to have a brand presence in the social space than it is not to.

But that’s not exactly comforting news to those concerned with the risks of social media.

It’s important for pro- and anti-social media organization members to come together. Risk will never be nullified, but the two sides can come together to mitigate risk by:

  • Establishing a solid social media org chart and work flow with roles and responsibilities clearly articulated and aligned upon
  • Making social media part of your crisis and response plan protocol, so you aren’t forced to make it up when a crisis occurs
  • Establishing a corporate social media policy to protect the business and employees
  • Monitoring online conversations for potential threats
  • Working closely with customer service to quickly work with online detractors to offer support before a problem grows worse

Both voices are important. But it’s important for those voices to come together and find solutions.