Demystifying Digital Engagements & Social Media and Putting Them In Perspective.

It would be rather erroneous to assume that digital engagements and social media within that, constitute an entirely different mode of engagement and a novel mode of marketing which could supplant and replace existing modes & methods. Social media is a form of communication which can be both external & internal & operates both laterally & vertically in a two-way mode. Such communications have led to the breaking down of departmental & organizational silos, led to greater transparency and a more direct form of interaction rather than that typified by one-way communications like advertisements or corporate P.R. handouts, and a greater transparency in terms of information and news, both good & bad. 

Social media supplements the existing efforts and initiatives of various departments like Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, P.R. etc.,. It is a force multiplier and needs a buy-in by the apex management as well as by various other functional departments to be effective and to make a difference. Socialized digital communications is an organization level communication to customers, prospects, channels, suppliers and employees too in a personalized form and is quite different from the personal social communications individuals indulge in using social media networks like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. It has to focus on and be in sync with organizational and departmental objectives, goals, strategies and targets. There can be no social media strategy operating in a silo just as one can't have an e-mail strategy or a telephone communication strategy operating in a standalone mode. 

A digital engagement and social media strategy working in tandem with various functional departments can start small initially, if so desired, but would need to spread across all functional departments eventually and develop 'Social' Departmental heads with socially oriented mindsets. The principle adaptation in this case would be the changeover from a 'Closed, Selective & Controlling' mindset to an 'Open, Random & Supportive' mindset.  As a recent study has shown, a Social CEO is utimately more effective in meeting the organizational objectives and more competitive than a more tradition-bound, cloistered CEO.

The top five business functional areas where digital engagements including social media can be pretty effective are:
  1. Sales
  2. Customer Support
  3. Human Resources (HR)
  4. Public Relations (PR)
  5. Business Intelligence (BI)
 Usage of Social Media needs to be aligned with departmental KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and, as far as possible, measurements need to be set up to assess the impact and effectiveness. Here are two random examples of this:

  • If a Sales campaign for a product or service is primarily focussed on F.R.Y. (Frequency, Reach & Yield) then measures to gauge the impact on Frequency (getting existing customers to buy more often), Reach (Acquisition of new customers) & Yield ( Getting existing customers to buy more for every purchase) should be worked out in advance and put in place before getting on to digital engagements to supplement existing initiatives & efforts.
  • A Customer Support head may decide to cut 20% of current customer support costs by shifting resources from call centres to Social Media channels to increase customer satisfaction & perception (ratio of positive: negative perception, repeat purchases ) & enhance customer loyalty (percentage of churn among existing customers ). These parameters & measures should be defined before embarking on use of Social Media networks.

Such definitions & measures would be a lot more aligned with departmental strategies, tactics & KPIs rather than general objectives for digital engagements like 'engaging our customers more and starting ongoing conversations with them to get their feedback'.

There are several myths about Social Media which need to be addressed for all departmental heads and executives who may not have experienced it before and are therefore apprehensive or sceptical about its effectiveness. The most common ones are:

  1. Social Media is a waste of time.
  2. Using Social Media can be complicated.
  3. Anyone can do the Social Media job.
  4. Social Media is another shiny new passing fad. Couple of years from now the bubble will burst and it will fall flat on its face.
  5. It will lead to people having to totally change the way they work and such changes may be disruptive and not desirable.

Each of the above myths are not true and misgivings or apprehensions on these counts, if they exist, need to be addressed and allayed to ensure commitment and buy-in at all levels.

Finally here are some common objections & fears one may come across regarding digital engagements and use of Social Media networks.
a) People may start saying quite a few negative things about the organization or about some of our products and services.
b) Someone may get round to mentioning something embarrassing & awkward on Social Media.
c) Could something said or commented on in Social Media lead to lawsuits even?
d) Employees could leak confidential information on Social Media.
e) How do we know that most of our customers even use or access Social Media?
f) Use of Digital Engagements and Social Media seems to be a lot of work and we currently don't have the people and the manpower for this.

These can be valid objections & apprehensions on the part of apex management and departmental heads, particularly when they have not used Social Media before or have not aligned & integrated it with organizational and departmental objectives, goals & strategies. To ensure understanding of Social Media's force multiplier role and usage, these issues need to be addressed & answered before Digital Engagement commences. 

Raja Mitra