Break the Social Media Value Chain in 2015

Five Ways Marketers Can Break and Rebuild the Social Digital Value Chain

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I like to break things. It's not for the fun of breaking things, but more for the thrill of the challenge of rebuilding them. In 2015, it is my hope that certain processes in the value chain will be trashed and rebuilt to produce a successful year in digital and social media.

I anchor my recommendations in the model of the value chain, a construct I learned years ago that addresses the systems that every business is built upon.

The foundation: the value chain

It's often easy to forget that our digital and social work is work, intended to generate margin for companies ('cause it can be so much fun), so I pause here to remind us going into 2015 why marketing exists -- to implement elements of a value chain for our companies.

A value chain is a chain of activities that a firm operating in a specific industry performs in order to deliver a valuable product or service for the market. The concept comes from business management and was first described and popularized by Michael Porter in his 1985 bestseller, "Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance."

A "first-generation" value chain was constructed by practitioners of digital/social, cobbled together ad hoc as needs arose. In 2015, we'll know enough to step back and reassemble an optimized value chain leveraging all we've learned.

Here are five ways marketers can break and fix the digital/social value chain in 2015:

1. Turn intelligence into content. 2015 is the year that marketers will standardize the practice of publishing and curating content (e.g. blogs and social posts) based on topics audiences care about. The sources of this information -- social listening and persona research -- are becoming embedded in content-marketing practices. Vendors are emerging that can deliver blog content to build the supply of blogs to a critical mass (e.g. Contently, Storify, Skyword).

2. Orchestrate a portfolio of channels. Companies realize that a massive collection of hundreds of social accounts without orchestration between the accounts is no longer sustainable. Audiences now expect that companies have figured this out and are offering a logical extension of the customer journey on digital and social channels.

3. Build everything with the intent to measure it. As we enter 2015, we all know that digital and social has matured beyond the "it's the right thing to do" justification. I think this quote from Insead Knowledge summarizes the challenge well: "While many organisations tend to place too much importance on the quantity that accurately represents their position in the competitive landscape -- i.e.. their positional equity -- at a given moment, what they often overlook is the relational equity with their community and stakeholders."

4. Consolidate tools and agencies to simplify. The social media management systems market (SMMS) has matured beyond numerous point solutions to a greater prevalence of tools that deliver end-to-end enablement and measurement. Digital/social media marketers should create an RFP and let vendors compete for their business in 2015. The best-in-class for your situation will emerge as you hear their proposals. It's a vast landscape. Here's a comprehensive listing of market leaders to use as a starting point.

5. Make everyone accountable. I am certain 2015 is the year that goals for solution and product marketing teams will include creation of engaging digital content to educate, sell and support their products. Heretofore it's mainly been the social/digital teams cajoling the product folks to "do the right thing," but we know that is insufficient. A bit of wishful thinking here, but we now all know that most organizational adoption of social is driven by hard incentives and is required to get the buy-in needed. We've seen it happen increasingly at SAP in 2014 and I know the trend will spread.

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