Most people hate change. It’s scary, awkward and anxiety provoking. People like things to stay same. But in this day and age of technological advances, change is unavoidable. You can either ride the Groundswell[i], so to speak, or get run over by it.
Unless you live under a rock, you have likely had some experience with social networking technologies. While you may not be an obsessed Tweeter or Facebook Junkie, you have likely heard of the Internet and of the different social platforms that people are using. You have likely used them yourself. And while most of us like to observe, critique and occasionally join in on the conversations that are going on online, when it comes to implementing an online Social Media Strategy for your business, your hands start to sweat, you shake and have an uncontrollable urge to run back and hide under your rock. You’re hit with a mixture of anxiety at the thought of actually participating in the online marketing world with the similar anxiety of missing out. So how can we combat what Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff coined the Approach-Avoidance Syndrome?
The answer is simple, although not always immediately clear. You need a clear, well- defined and flexible Social Media Strategy. While most business focus first on what technologies are out there, Li and Bernoff rightly suggest that we ignore the technologies at first and focus on the people who use these technologies. Who are your customers? What are they ready for? What technologies are they already using? It is critical to assess how they engage with each other, whether it is online forums, blogs, Facebook or review sites. Making uneducated guesses about how your customers are behaving online can leave you with egg on your face.
Secondly, once you have a good idea of how your customers are behaving online, you need to look at your company’s objectives for joining the Groundswell in the first place. What are your goals? Is it for better customer service? To generate sales? To preview new products coming out? Asking and answering these questions needs to be first and foremost when implementing your company’s Social Media Strategy. Li and Bernoff suggest 5 objectives that companies can pursue:
Once you are able to crystallize your goals for social media, you need to create a strategy that is both targeted but flexible. Remember that technologies are developing swiftly and fluidly. What is an appropriate medium of communication for your customers today, may not be so in six months. Be sure that you are constantly monitoring and shifting your strategy to follow, not lead, your customers.
When you know who your customers are, where they hang out online and what they are doing, coupled with identifying what your company wants out of a social media plan, then and only then you can focus on what technologies are the most appropriate for you to use. If you are able to keep to this model to create an effective and well though out social media strategy, any anxiety toward the Groundswell will, hopefully, subside.
[i] Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies”, (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011)