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Commercial Social Media for UK Business: Part 2

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Last week I wrote a little background on how the social media landscape is looking (Commerical Social Media for UK Business: Part 1), drawing upon the Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2009 and the Econsultancy Online PR and Social Media Roundtable discussions, the report of which is now online - I highly recommend downloading it to get a feel on what was said during the sessions.

With that background then, lets move onto what I got out of the session - what UK business can be doing now with social media, focusing on everyday practicalities and not wanting to just leap onto the current hot trend.

Below is my attempt to collate the days valuable information that came out of the session from everyone who attended. My thanks goes out to everyone who was there for the insights below – you know who you are!

A Social Media Strategy

An important definition of a social media strategy is that it should be platform independent – relying on Digg homepages or Twitter followers for example is a poor measure of success and more prone to risk and failure. We look at how to apply principles across the multitude of social media platforms, more of which come out every week.



The first question posed was simple – what do brands want to see from their social media campaigns?

Most brands present cited wanting to use Social Media to raise awareness, whilst others cited traffic as a main objective. SEO performance by gathering citations was not mentioned, although acknowledged later on in the discussion as a nice by-product.

How - Monitoring and careful engagement

Discussion then turned to how social media is being used currently – full commitment wasnt yet on the table, the medium still lacking the trust other avenues such as PPC and SEO hold, and a lively discussion was placed on ROI. A good point made was that getting an ROI on off-line media is a very inexact science so why look at online media differently? Getting the measure of the success of social media campaigns was still a very much work in progress with some looking at gathering metrics from the sites themselves whilst others just happy with the traffic figures to the site. KD Paine covers the complicated and ever changing debate on her blog.

An example of using Twitter to monitor customers given was that of American Airlines, who have a policy of following key passengers Twitter accounts. In one case, a customer was complaining about facing poor luggage service in the past, and dreading an upcoming flight. (Current Twitter chatter about American Airlines)

When that customer got off the flight, an American Airlines rep was there to meet them off the plane to ensure everything went smoothly. The customer now of course started singing American Airlines praises, and all was published online.

A household brand at the roundtable was testing the waters with SM, using it primarily as a monitoring tool, for which services such as Google Alerts and Twitter search offer a low barrier entry into the medium.

Technical Support

However, as a result, they had recently found opportunity to reach out and selectively offer support to social media users complaining about problems. Authenticity was vital, since the company rep was technical and not someone from the marketing department - the brand rep could offer genuine helpful advice. Yahoo! Answers was also cited as a useful outlet to help in this regard, where answering questions from an official account had created very positive feedback from the customer posing the question.

As said at the meeting:

"It is cheaper to keep a customer than find another"

…and so a clear case for social media is using its communication capabilities for customer retention.

Another suggestion was to use Social Media as an alternative to call centres, with call centre staff being accessible via twitter and instance messenger as alternatives to expensive call centres – expanding on the benefits of having a self help forum, cutting down on the costs of common queries clogging up call centres.


Different needs were identified in customer support – some brands had similar queries all the time so needed to build up a repository of knowledge; others had constantly changing questions that needed a more dynamical method. This would affect which method would be favoured – a large static knowledge base could only need a good tagging/search function, where as the more dynamic problems would benefit most from customer access to technical staff in an easy and regulated manner.

One potential problem about online support would be if an issue isnt responded to quickly. The expectation online is for near instant response, so if that isnt there a negative experience could result. Be prepared to back up your decisions with enough investment in resources, but wait until you have data to put your resources in the right place.


To carry out any social media project, the first part of a campaign should be about listening and finding the issues where you can make the most impact – the aptly named “passion points” are the areas that ignite a community, and can be demographic independent. Once those points are identified, then invest heavily. This differs from other marketing spends where the majority of budget may be spent setting up.

What are you scared of?

Dangers of tinkering with Social Media identified were fatigue with the medium by using it without a strategy, and also using junior level staff to represent your brand online can be dangerous – session planning was also identified as a potential pitfall, not letting it fall on one employee who could at any point leave.


The session seemed to concentrate mostly on using social media as a customer retention device rather than driving new business to a site. A few take-aways from the session for me were:

1) Monitoring: General agreement was that listening and monitoring brand chatter was a necessary and easy first step, with monitoring tools such as Addictomatic, RSS or Google Alerts being good free tools.

2) Empower existing customers: Social media offers excellent opportunities to support customer retention. This involves helping existing customers, answering general queries and making syndication of your content as easy as possible. It is here that authenticity and helpfulness, tone of voice and branding are vital; employees must be well equipped since they are (virtual) public facing. A social media policy for employees would be a good internal action. Metrics of success focus on how many customers have positive experience to repeat business, and word of mouth recommendations.

3) New customer acquisition: The next more involved step involves stepping out beyond your existing user base and attracting new custom. Viral campaigns, linkbait and killer content all helps in this department. This builds on the above, since customers who have positive experiences promote the company via word of mouth, as well as via the multitude of ways these days someone can share videos, links and pictures on the web via widgets and social media chicklets. This strand also has the best potential to aid SEO with the creation of high volumes of editorial, natural links.


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Kinda hard to not put it all on one person, dont you think? At least, not and avoid tons of overlap. How do you break up the work so they're not all just doing the same thing and being backups of each other?

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Social media is the new trend now especially to businesses. They use it to market or advertise any of their services or products. It’s easy to do it and hassle-free that’s why people are convinced to participate on it. Many companies are now turning to social media and no doubt social media has a large influence on businesses.

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