Did you know that a customer who normally would qualify for your lowest service or product level can have an impressive 100,000 followers on Twitter? Do you think the customer’s influence might merit special treatment?
These are two perplexing questions many companies face as they formulate a social media strategy. To understand how businesses approach the challenge, let’s look at strategies and practices of several companies. There are three distinct social media strategies, which depend on a company’s tolerance for uncertain outcomes and the desired level of results.
The Prognostic Specialist
The Prognostic Specialist approach confines social media usage to a specific area, such as customer service. This strategy works well for businesses seeking to avoid uncertainty and to deliver results that can be measured with established tools.
To increase Clorox’s virtual R&D capabilities, the social media team created Clorox Connects—a website that enables brainstorming with customers and suppliers. Here’s a typical posted query: “We’re working on X product idea. What features would you like to see included?” To encourage participation, Clorox uses incentives borrowed from gaming. For example, customers who post answers or add rating comments are awarded points. The site features different levels of difficulty, and contributors who demonstrate expertise can advance to problems requiring greater creativity, knowledge, and involvement. The sharpest contributors gain visibility, making participation rewarding. An early success came after Clorox posted a question about a specific compound for the company’s salad dressings. Five responses came in quickly. The company decided on a solution within a day and introduced the problem-solver to the product development process.
The Inventive Expert
Companies adopting this strategy embrace uncertainty. This strategy is perfect for firms using small-scale tests to find ways to improve discrete functions and practices. These companies learn by listening to customers and employees input on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Occasionally these firms use proprietary technologies to conduct internal tests.
EMC, the industry-leading IT services firm, utilizes the Inventive Expert strategy. EMC pays particular attention to how the company’s 40,000 global employees use internal social media channels to locate needed expertise within the company. To reduce the use of outside contractors, EMC created a test platform, called EMC/ONE. The platform assisted employees network and connect on projects. EMC/ONE benefited many new employees whom were absorbed via recent acquisitions.
The EMC Director of Social Strategy, Len Devanna , claims, “We were very clear that in two months we might unplug this and try a completely different approach. This was the reason we were inside the firewall: To be free to make mistakes and learn our lessons before exposing ourselves to the outside.” Within a year EMC/ONE delivered substantial benefits. For example, a division that needed to produce a sales video connected with an in-house production group, saved $10,000 as a result. The company estimates that EMC/ONE has generated more than $40 million in savings overall.
The Social Engagement Change Agent
This involves large initiatives designed for predictable results. It may depend on close collaboration across multiple functions and levels and include external parties.
Ford’s 2009 Fiesta Movement campaign is an excellent example of the Social Engagement Change Agent strategy. This strategy was used to prepare for the car’s reintroduction in the U.S. The campaign required joint efforts among marketing, communications, and the C-suite. Ford decided to lend 100 Fiestas for six months to recipients who would use social media channels to discuss experiences with the cars in an authentic and direct approach. The company held an online contest to select candidates. Ford carefully chose drivers with large social media followings. To further reduce uncertainty, Ford required participants to regularly produce content on themed missions, for example, volunteerism. The company designed a schedule for postings. Within six months the drivers had posted more than 60,000 submissions. These submissions reaped millions of clicks including more than 4.3 million YouTube views.
The $5 million campaign created:
- A pre-launch brand awareness rate of 37% among Millennials
- Generated 50,000 sales leads to new customers
- Prompted 35,000 test-drives
This is a level of results that might be expected from a traditional campaign costing tens of millions of dollars.Tweet