We read a lot of stories that talk about how companies are joining social media by the droves, but are they really? I mean, what are they doing? If all they’re doing is opening social accounts and sitting on their professional graveyards, is this really joining social media? I think not.

iPhone ROI… Really?

A recent YouTube video, Social Media ROI Hypocrisy, makes an excellent point. Many companies will spend thousands of dollars supplying their employees with iPhones, iPads, Blackberries and other smartphones, without once asking what the ROI is. Yet, let a marketer mention social media, and “What’s the return on investment, here?” is the question companies have to know.

Only 14% of Companies Get It

A recent InSites Consulting survey of 400 senior marketing managers delivered some interesting, and somewhat frustrating results:

  • 68% of companies have a Facebook page
  • 56% have a Twitter account
  • 47% have a LinkedIn account
  • Only 14% actually have integrated social media
  • 20% aren’t doing anything at all

So, out of all the Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn accounts that companies have, only 14% combined are actually integrated into the companies’ various campaigns. Meh.

You know what the biggest barrier is to full social media integration? Return. On. Investment. InSites calls it “financial added values”, but it’s still ROI, no matter how fancy you dress it up.

Wake Up And Smell the Social

Having a company social account alone isn’t enough. Especially if you’re going to claim that “you got no ROI from social”. Social media marketing is like exercise; you don’t see results unless you actually do something.

Wake Up And Smell The Social

So, if integrated social marketing isn’t hopping on the most popular social sites and creating an account, what is it? First, let’s make sure you’re ready:

How to know if you’re ready for social media marketing

  • If you feel like you’re being forced to integrate, you aren’t ready;
  • If you’re still uncomfortable about the ROI, you aren’t ready;
  • If you don’t know the reasons for integrating, you aren’t ready;
  • If you don’t understand what you’re going to do once you get there, you aren’t ready for social media marketing.

If you have all those issues out of the way, let’s get started.

What Is Integrated Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a lot of things, and they all take work, as I think I’ve already been clear about in the first portion of this article. –But, what are those “things”?

Creating a strategy

Would you build a house without having blue prints? No. –And you shouldn’t use social for business without having a plan, either. However, you have to remember that social media isn’t a standalone marketing method. With this in mind, how are you going to incorporate it into your currently successful methods?

For example, if you use television advertising, this is an excellent opportunity to share your company with the world as a business that cares about the consumer. Most companies that succeed with social use it as a consumer platform, to connect, troubleshoot and otherwise communicate with their target market.

Once you’ve made the decision to set up your accounts, but before you actually do, have a well-outlined strategy of how you’re going to use social media. Your strategy should include the (realistic) goals you want to achieve. Split those goals into phases, such as “set up”, “communication” and “reputation management” – which brings us to the next point…

Seriously people…

Tracking your reputation

Unlike many other forms of internet marketing, social really opens your company up to feedback. Hopefully, it’s positive feedback, but you can’t please everyone all the time, as the old saying goes. You need to know how you’re going to watch, listen and learn what people are saying about you. For example:

After all, if tracking social media as a way to gather public sentiment is good enough for the government, it should be good enough for you.

Choosing your public voice

If everybody in the company hops on your social account, followers will become confused. Having one or two dedicated individuals running your social gives your company a personality, which is what you’re aiming for anyway. Who wants to speak to a building, when you can speak to a person? However, you want to choose your people wisely; a strong voice can make all the difference in the success of your social media marketing. Even if you have a large company, you at least want to have a social media “manifesto” outlining how your voice(s) are expected to communicate with the public so there are no surprises waiting in the wings.

Setting up your reputation management strategy

Hope for the best; most companies never see the dirty side of social media. Yet, prepare for negative comments. For smaller companies, this may mean you and your employee talking it over. For larger companies, make sure your marketing department is talking to the PR people, who are talking to the sales people, who are talking to… you get the idea. A chain of command has to be in place. How will your company respond if a customer bad-mouths you, or someone tells you to kiss off? How will you deal with hostility? Getting your reputation management strategy ready before a crisis strikes is the first step to avoiding – and managing – one.

Share your social accounts

Many… oh so many… businesses set up their accounts and then hide them in the basement. You don’t have to be embarrassed. When you set these accounts up, wear the badges proudly. Give your website visitors easy access to your company via these social sites. Put those easily-recognizable, linked icons on your site and on your blog where they’re visible!

Use Only A Few

Customize your accounts where possible

Twitter lets you customize your background. So do YouTube and Facebook. For that matter, although it’s limited, so does LinkedIn. These accounts are your online “face”; put some makeup on them! Add your logo, colors, information…  claim them as your own. Put a big ole’ “we are here” stamp on them!

Interact

Okay, so I left this one for last when it should be first. Let’s be clear, here. It does no good to go through all the setting up, strategizing and personalizing if you’re not going to listen and interact with people. Don’t use the excuse of “no one is talking to me”. It gets old. Get out there, already!

There are literally millions of people online, interacting on these social platforms. How many of them are you going to leave to your competitors, simply because they didn’t talk to you first? Find people of like interests. Share good information, even if it’s not your own. Do something without thinking “what’s the ROI” first.

I strongly encourage you to read The Marketing Nut’s 125 Ways to Integrate Social Media to Zoom Your Business. It’s a long list of possibilities any company can easily do to get their social going. Fulfilling even half this list will give you a strong start.

Change Your Thinking

You have to start thinking differently. You have to take the time to stop and study your market. Here’s a hint; social is growing. Only once you step outside the box of thought that says “ROI now” will you gain inspiration and growth. You can’t not go there simply because of fear of the unknown. Eventually, you have to ACT – or be lost behind the companies that do.