Social Media Dominance And The New Social Business

Today, organizations use social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and now even Snapchat, to share messages and engage with customers in a more intimate and personal way than is possible through traditional marketing channels.  Because the world of digital media evolves so quickly, social media marketing rules can be as fleeting as the tweets and snaps that fill our screens each day.

This means that to keep from falling behind, organizations need to continually challenge their marketing processes and adapt their strategies.

Measure And Visualize To Stay Ahead Of The Curve

The way in which organizations engage with their followers has become more important than their number of followers.  It’s more valuable to have a small number of loyal followers who engage with and share your social content than a large number of followers who rarely engage at all.  It’s about quality over quantity.

In fact, brands should be willing to “gift” their brand by having an influencer “take over” their channel to accelerate their engagement.  In a takeover, a brand might use a guest blogger or allow a celebrity influencer to drive engagement on their channel.

It’s a very different marketing strategy, in that it leverages the ecosystem to drive engagement and reach a totally new audience.  To stay on message and maintain consistency, marketers should ensure that the “influencer” embodies the values of the brand and plans activities that align with the company’s goals.

Additionally, to build and retain a loyal following, organizations should use measurement tools to ensure that they are on top of their social media game.  Social intelligence platforms can help organizations sift through social data and see what matters – analyzing data, detecting moments or trends that need action, and helping organizations listen to their social media conversation in a smarter way.

In fact, at this year’s South by Southwest conference and festival, IBM used a social intelligence platform powered by IBM Cloud to leverage engagement as the key metric.  In the past, we looked at volume of output.  Now, we have added another layer of measurement – reposts and retweets.  This helps us see which posts actually resonate with our followers – enough that they’d want to share our content with their own networks.

Taking measurement a step further, we’ve started looking at users’ Klout scores to determine the level of influence our voices have in the social conversation.  By using new tactics and tools to dig a little deeper, we have uncovered smarter ways to measure our success, and we use that information to continually improve our social engagement.

And finally, we know that visualizing the impact of social goes a long way in the new millennial world.  This year, at Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH festival in San Francisco – the largest startup festival in the world – we engaged the audience through a wearable piece of technology – a pin – that was linked to the event hashtag and connected to Watson via IBM Cloud.  The pin changed colors every minute to showcase the sentiment of tweets from the various discussions and pitches happening at the festival.  The audience literally saw (not just talked about) the value of using cognitive computing to visualize social media sentiment in real-time.  Creative uses of real-time visualization can take your social media plan to the next level.

Social Platforms Change Into Search Engines

Social search functions first gained traction on Twitter via the hashtag, which is now used across nearly every social channel.  The hashtag makes it easy to track trends, search for conversations or users and, more generally, categorize content.  Coupled with consumers’ tendency to rely on social media to learn about new products and companies, the search function in social media platforms is quickly becoming a search engine in its own right – with potential to serve up educational and marketing content for businesses.  In essence, companies should embrace this new mode of consumer research when building their social business strategies.

While SEO is not going anywhere, identifying social media as a search channel can have great benefits. Embedding short links directly into social posts through platforms like Bitly gives organizations the opportunity to direct users to other company collateral – making it easy to track and manage a users’ journey, collect data on clicks and shares and turn that information into actionable insights.  Comprised of more than 25 billion data-infused links and a massive user base around the world that’s supported by IBM Cloud, Bitly can be a game-changer in an organization’s global social media marketing strategy.

Tapping Into Social Niches

As social media continues to evolve, we’re beginning to see a turn toward community-driven focus areas.  In other words, as the sophistication and use of social platforms increases for organizations (corporate and personal alike), users are moving away from broad, generic communities and embracing smaller, niche networks.

For instance, GitHub is a private, social community for developers that’s home to some of the latest tools and news for their industry.  GitHub can be accessed in different ways – some of which include, the IBM Bluemix cloud platform, and GitHub Enterprise through Bluemix Local or Dedicated.  However users are finding it, it has become home to more than 12 million developers and is a social network in its own right.

Developers aren’t the only ones with huge niche social networks.  FinTech companies, especially those that leverage blockchain or digital currencies, have their own forums across social platforms.  And Reddit is home to thousands of communities known as subreddits, formed around topics that range from gaming to cybersecurity.

As organizations try to make a splash within niche communities, it’s imperative that they streamline their marketing plans and keep them on target.  For example, if you’re selling to women, you probably want to leverage Pinterest.  For content marketing pros, Twitter is a safe bet.  Knowing the platform, the topic of interest and the demographic are key in not wasting resources and efforts on the wrong social platform.

In all, organizations need to pivot and be socially adept, or they will lose ground on what’s easily becoming the primary avenue for community engagement. Being a social business is now the norm, so be a social presence that people want to follow and share. It’s amazing what customer advocacy and social media engagement can do for your bottom line.