Social media is for mobilising and delivering long-term business and social change.
The discussion about change, and value, is one we continue to have with many of our clients.
We have to consider how we define ‘social value’, because value drives long-term change. Value will differ for each organisation using social media, engaging through social media, or deploying social media for commercial, political or social change. Everyone’s definition reflects their own organisational needs.
We work with organisations seeking market share, leads, sales, brand awareness, memberships, long-term relationships and short-term results. These different objectives apply across organisation type — none are restricted to large or small organisations.
Defining that value must always be part of any social strategy. And any social strategy works best when part of a set of broader objectives.
Value must have purpose, be defined by time and results, and be measurable. Once defined, social does deliver value and in time, change.
Owning the message, driving the conversation on social media
Social media differs from mainstream media in one fundamental way. Mainstream media has both the platform and the content under the control of the media owner. The modern PR industry has spent the last 100 years working via this model.
With social media channels only the platform is under the control of the owner. Algorithms and human interventions influence what we see and consume, and at all levels the content is owned and created by others.
We as individuals, businesses and causes, create the content we consume.
Social media therefore does give long-term value: for the passionate advocate, the opportunity to create long-term engagement now exists.
One of our clients is an IT manufacturer. They’ve used long-term customer and influencer engagement through social media channels over a number of years to deliver value in customer relationships, sales and market share. We and the company have put a distinct focus on social media programs (and digital engagement in general) at the expense of traditional alternatives.
Delivering value and change with social media
This decision was made on data and insights and the results are clear. A lift in brand awareness:
- from zero to 30% in the first six months
- to 40% in 12 months
- and to 50% in 18 months.
Sales were up in the category from essentially zero to the point where the company became second in its category in its market. Social delivered value, measured on many terms relevant to that organisation.
As to change, social media programs now exist to support senior executives at this company. Value has been delivered, recognised, and quantified. Social media has changed this organisation in its thinking as well as its marketing.
An incentive based model
Those active in social media — be they influencers or customers — do seek incentives, but in subtle, new and complex forms. For influencers, the new incentive model is the concept of win-win-win — for the influencer’s audience, the influencer in person, and the brand.
Win-win-win is based on creating great content in partnership with influencers. The customer gets to see great content. For the brand, the incentive arises from using the influencer as a resource. The content, meanwhile, is always under the influencer’s editorial control.
Whether that represents a model built on short-term clicks and shares, and whether that’s detrimental or not to social cohesion and consensus-building, is a debate worth having.
For customers, the new incentive model is around improved experiences — something more subtle than just great prices. By understanding those aspirations, organisations can improve how they interact and engage with customers. That understanding comes from social. It’s a long-term play.
Value is in the eye of the recipient. That can be short-term commercial gain or long-term social change. However you define it, there is value in social media and from that value, change will in time also come.