Say hi to the social media elephant in the room

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Most of the companies we work with are starting to get their arms around whether they should put more structure into how they manage social media. At first this sounds like an attempt to put more dehumanizing bureaucracy around a medium that rewards spontaneity and authenticity. But actually, most companies have either just let social media activity sprout around their company organically, with little strategy behind it, or they have reactively put lots of restrictions on it from a general fear of loss of control. In both situations, little time has been spent strategically thinking through how to unleash social for its full potential. Most companies essentially ignore the social media elephant in the room.

Well, you need to get to know that elephant and figure out how to make it an integral part of your business. We see the biggest struggles, and opportunities, in four areas, where a coherent approach to social media can pay off:

  • Customer care: the posts from consumers to most service-based companies tend to be heavily biased towards complaints, requests for help, escalation of problems that have not been resolved, and general questions about how something works. Having a formal social care team that peels off those posts and handles them in a structured way, with real case management, tools to resolve problems is essential. We have seen that the cost per case for those companies who can handle social care effectively is a fraction of what it costs to handle calls by phone. That means, instead of just quietly having a social handle that customers can send posts to, a good social care handler should think about how to carefully promote its handles and manage a cautious expansion of its social care scale. One bank that did this saw its satisfaction scores noticeably rise, as has its JD Powers ranking, while also seeing its total customer care costs proportionately fall. (You can learn more about this area in the slideshow below).
  • Risk management: too many companies either don't think through the filters they should put on the posting they do, or they load every posts with disclaimers, overly formal language, or too many restrictions. Few have a formal triage system laid out for which types of posts can simply adhere to some basic guidelines and go out, which ones need legal review, and what just cannot be sent. Many times legal teams in business units have reacted as social has progressed, but few have a formal strategy for how much risk to bear, how to track the boundaries of what others are doing, and what tools they can use to audit and track posts.
  • Content maximization: social is a beast that feeds on content. Much of it needs to be created in the moment, in response to what is happening in conversation, but much can also come from repurposing video feed done for advertising or other purposes, or from extending rights a marketer has to sponsorship assets. Stepping back and rethinking how to unlock more vectors of content and then funneling access to it to those on the front line of posting can amortize the value of content investments, and open up more ways to get engagement
  • Analytics: social media offers opportunities to get ahead of the sentiment of the market, tap feedback on what you are doing as a brand, spot individuals interested in buying, and understand the earned amplification value of content that goes viral. And there are probably many more insights to be gained. Most business units in companies lack the scale to invest in analyzing such a broad suite of possibilities, and few companies have stepped forward to invest broadly to do so. Yet we have seen enormous value from social analytics that enable spotting new innovation ideas, building social lead flows, and testing marketing messages before going big. The team doing such analytics may need to sit in a central service group, or in one of the larger business units who is active in social, but wherever it is, setting up such a group should be a priority

The transparency and growing scale of social media demands executive attention. How are you mobilizing to put solid support structure behind your social media ambitions?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn