Three Ways to Maximize Return on Your Investment in Social Media

Most Important, Get the Public Relations and Marketing Teams on the Same Page

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Social media go hand in hand with public relations and marketing. Teams in both areas need to be closely aligned to help ensure success and avoid costly missteps. How does a chief marketing officer go about generating smooth interplay between these two groups? Below are three steps to keep in mind:

Find a social-media "point person" and cultivate that person's reach and influence so it extends to both the marketing and public-relations teams.

This individual is typically an employee in the marketing or public-relations team who really understands the company and the business. A good example is Ford's social-media maven, Scott Monty, who created a robust social-media presence for Ford by giving the brand a personality and engaging with users.

How do you find a point person? First, look around -- do you have a marketing rock star with an interest in social media who knows your business and, more importantly, can talk about it? If so, give that person the proper training to assume this role. It's easier to teach an insider about social media than it is to teach a new employee the nuances of your business. Look at your investment in social media as a long-term marketing commitment and not something you want to use as a transition to other resources.

A second way to find the point person is to hire social-media experts to find someone. As when you hire a public-relations firm, the agency you choose must know your company and understand its goals, long-term vision and strategy.

The majority of companies are just beginning to build out their social departments. Most teams are small and the level of experience is low, because this is such a new element of marketing. We expect to see a considerable amount of progress over the next few years.

Use analytics data to help tell a cohesive story about return on investment that 's driven by joint marketing and public-relations efforts.

A stronger association between hard data (measures of return-on-investment) and soft data (measures of brand-building) is occurring in social media. More and more public relations teams and agencies are beginning to measure social media's effects. Generally the data are of the softer variety, as opposed to measuring hard sales, and include social-media mentions, sentiment and social influencers.

Chief marketing officers are in a position to push for a deeper investment into analysis that ties softer metrics with core key-performance sales indicators, such as site traffic and revenue. The next revolution of social-media marketing will be driven by hard indicators, so it's better to start investing now. Analytics platform suites, such as Adobe's Omniture, are expected to release new tools to measure social-media engagement against return on investment.

Infuse social media into every facet of the business, starting with public relations.

Social media need to be integrated into the entire organization, starting with public relations. All departments need to be included -- from the public-relations team being on top of the latest social trends and tools, to the IT team integrating social media into digital assets, to the call center diffusing customer service issues via social-media channels.

When the integral role of social media isn't communicated well across the company, viral public-relations crises can strike. One of the most famous examples occurred when two Domino's Pizza employees who didn't understand the consequences of their prankish behavior put a gross video on YouTube. United Airlines' customer-service department was embarrassed by a YouTube video into making good on a passenger's guitar that airline employees had broken. If these companies had infused social media throughout their organizations, such incidents might have been avoided.

At the end of the day, social media need to become part of an organization's DNA. The CMO and the executive team must ensure cooperation, not competition, among different business units. Public relations can be leveraged across all social-media initiatives and employees can become invaluable brand advocates in their online conversations. Crises can be avoided, internal and external communications will be more effective and the company will be stronger as a whole.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Clarke is co-founder and managing partner of interactive agency BGT Partners. To connect with David and BGT Partners, please visit: facebook.com/bgtpartners and twitter.com/bgtpartners.
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