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Published: August 28, 2012
 / Autumn 2012 / Issue 68


Scaling Up Social Media

Not surprisingly, these new requirements also raise concerns. About 50 percent of respondents say their lack of sufficient community management resources represents a major barrier to social media success, and 55 percent worry that they are losing control of their brand messages. “You have to be ‘on’ 24/7,” notes a senior executive with a major apparel brand. “You have to respond to customers all the time. Issues escalate so fast, you can be held hostage by someone in social media.”

Many companies are therefore on the hunt to recruit talent that can support high-impact community management. The community management professional, part brand champion, part chief listener, part superfan, and always “mission control,” brings a variety of skills to bear on the job. It is a dynamic, complex, and people-intensive function that requires a fusion of analytic and creative expertise.

2. Content development. To build a robust content development capability, companies must often completely reboot their approaches to communications and campaigns. According to one major beverage marketer, “Old-time brand managers only did TV. Now brand managers have to think about social [media] in everything they do. Do they have sufficient content they can share with their community?”

Unlike traditional advertising content, the goal of which is often awareness or brand recall, social media focuses on sharable, participation-focused content that stimulates conversations and gets the consumer involved in and connected to brand storytelling. A powerful example is Nike’s “The Chance,” a global Facebook and YouTube-centric competition developed by Nike agency AKQA. Over an eight-month period, 75,000 young, undiscovered soccer players from 40 countries competed for a life-changing contract with the Nike Academy. The aspiring athletes were encouraged to enter the competition by promoting themselves with videos and photos to build a fan following. Nike and AKQA zeroed in on the consumer insight that is true for every competitive sport: Athletes want the opportunity to compete at the most elite levels. Social media allowed Nike to take that insight global, transforming it into a compelling digital media experience for millions of athletes. As Ajaz Ahmed, chairman and founder of AKQA, explains, “There was no better way to tell the ‘Just Do It’ story than by empowering people to become better footballers and rewarding the very best.”

Leading social media teams are taking steps to build publisher-like capabilities, competing aggressively for consumers’ attention, engagement, and loyalty with high-value content just as media companies do. Many marketers say they plan to aggressively expand their content development staff. The survey found that among companies with dedicated social media staff, 49 percent have in-house creative talent. Another 35 percent are actively building their content teams. Among those planning to hire social media talent within a year, 72 percent are prioritizing creative resources — producers and editors — above all other needs.

3. Real-time analytics. Marketers increasingly need real-time insight into their audiences and the impact of their content to know whether their social media efforts are on target. Robust, well-structured analytics and metrics are critical to this understanding.

A real-time capability in social media analytics typically matures through four levels, gaining sophistication with each one. Level One is measuring reach. At this stage, marketers understand the social scale of their brands and know how many fans, followers, subscribers, visitors, and views they have. Level Two is tracking engagement. Marketers move beyond counting to analyze the drivers of participation and amplification in online communities and what kinds of sharable content perform best. For example, they study patterns in comments, shares, video plays, registrations, and other user actions. Level Three is analyzing advocacy. Here, marketers identify fan behaviors that are associated with brand commitment, relevance, authority, and social capital, such as writing reviews providing recommendations. The goal here is to know which users drive brand conversations as well as brand perception, and which users are the brand “multipliers” who get other fans and users to participate in brand conversations and who influence brand behavior positively.

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