Embracing and making social media marketing integral to an organisation

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Published: 01 Aug 2011

IN-DEPTH: Ashok Lalla, President - Digital, Euro RSCG says one cannot expect a complete organisation to embrace Social Media overnight. Baby first steps are required, ideally by people in otherwise customer-facing roles. Also, it‟s important to ride through any early hiccups that may occur. Social Media Marketing is not a campaign with an end date, but a journey that requires a long term view. By Ritesh Gupta

Social media belongs to a dynamic space. Given the immediacy of social networking, it‟s imperative that the strategy and execution don‟t end once it‟s out of the door. And before a company reaches out to its consumers, it is critical to understand how can one make a transition and allocate resources for social media marketing. It is important to assign ownership within your organisation. Also work to build that social media DNA into every employee. Specialists believe that collective energy, creativity and wisdom merged with personal responsibility is the best way to position your company for longterm success. “In order to make Social Media marketing integral to an organisation, it is important to walk the talk. Though easier said than done, that is the only way for people across the organisation (Management and rank-and-file) to realise what Social Media is all about, and how important it is to the organisation,” says Mumbai-based Ashok Lalla, President Digital, Euro RSCG. Lalla adds, “However, one cannot expect a complete organisation to embrace Social Media overnight. Baby first steps are required, ideally by people in otherwise customerfacing roles, such as Marketing, Communications, Sales and Customer Service.” According to Lalla, these first steps must be supported by some amount of handholding in terms of the What and How of Social Media. Setting out guidelines (that provide a framework without seeming too strict or punitive) helps too. Another aspect that helps get people in an organisation positively inclined to Social Media is seeing early successes and role models. Identifying and nurturing Social Media „champions‟ can help in this regard. As also sharing examples of how other organisations have successfully adopted Social Media. “Finally, it‟s important to ride through any early hiccups that may occur. And be prepared to stay the course, since Social Media Marketing is not a campaign with an end date, but a journey that requires a long term view,” shared Lalla, who is scheduled to speak at the

forthcoming EyeforTravel‟s Travel Distribution Summit India 2011, to be held in Mumbai (12-13 October) this year. Lalla spoke to EyeforTravel‟s Ritesh Gupta about embracing social media marketing. Excerpts: The goal is not measuring for the sake of measuring or reporting, but to gain actionable insights to help you achieve your business goals. Which according to you is the best way to measure the success of social media efforts? Ashok Lalla: A very crucial step towards measuring Social Media success and making sense of the measures is to have defined objectives and desires outcomes right from the outset. These will help determine what one needs to measure, and what defines success. Measures can vary – from being the more basic Delivery measures such as Views and Reads, to more Participatory measures such as Comments, Likes, Shares, Votes, Downloads, Check-ins. Then there can be the Transaction metrics such as Social commerce transactions and uptake on offers. The most complex metrics are the Engagement metrics, the raison d‟être of most marketers to undertake Social Media marketing in the first place. There are no universally accepted measures of engagement success, and that is where having clear cut objectives can help guide a marketer to measuring success. Just as it is with the rest of Marketing, usually a combination of measures is important to look at. And something that is often neglected is co-relating Social Media marketing initiatives with conventional offline brand measures related to brand loyalty and advocacy. These measures are often determined via offline consumer research and brand studies. The full impact of social media has to support the brand’s strategy, as does every marketing effort. The biggest challenge is that most (large) companies are not comfortable with it, because it’s difficult to get your arms around and it’s generational too. What’s your viewpoint regarding this? Ashok Lalla: While it‟s true that old world managers (Digital migrants) are not as comfortable with embracing Social Media as the younger lot (Digital natives), this divide is fast disappearing. Nothing breeds positivity as much as success, and as there are more and more examples of brands that have successfully integrated Social Media into their marketing programmes, companies earlier averse to „going Social‟ are starting to take their first steps in the space. Another key determinant of Social Media adoption is the realisation among marketers that they need to be where their audience is – and if that is in Social Media spaces, then they need to be there, or risk losing out the opportunity to reach, interact and influence their customer base. What proof or conviction can a marketer bring in front of the senior management to get a buy-in for social media marketing? Is there any tangible way of explaining the utility of social media marketing? Ashok Lalla: Examples of other brands having seen positive results from Social Media marketing is a good first step. Also, now there is plenty of consumer research that shows that consumers are relying more and more on peer opinion (that they get via Social Media) than conventional brand communication. A marketer would be foolhardy to ignore these clear signals that Social Media is something they need to accept and adopt.

How can companies nurture internal champion(s) who monitor social media and make it a priority? Ashok Lalla: Making Social Media intrinsic to Marketing and a brand‟s business operations, and providing guidance and encouragement for employees to „go Social‟ is crucial to creating success. As adoption grows, there will clearly be pockets of success that should then be recognised and shared organisation-wide as best practices to be emulated. Which is the best way to go about hosting social media accounts within an organisation? Ashok Lalla: There is no single accepted best practice in this regard. Some organisations opt for creating and managing „official‟ accounts. Others allow employees to create individual accounts. Yet others identify existing popular user generated accounts, and support them to nurture their presence in Social Media. A good approach would be one that perhaps combines these three, yet binds them together via using a similar tone and personality for the brand in how it communicates through these multiple accounts. The best social media outreach usually engages multiple departments within an organisation, ranging from marketing to product to engineering to editorial. How do you assess this approach towards nurturing a team and a culture? Ashok Lalla: Ideally, Social Media outreach must embrace all departments of an organisation. As it is difficult to get a buy-in from diverse stakeholders at the outset, one should build towards this goal, by starting small, involving the early enthusiasts, creating champions and success stories, and then actively socialising them through the length and breadth of the organisation. How should travel companies go about recruiting “the social media person”? What factors should one consider? Ashok Lalla: Social Media marketing is not about a single person. Or even a department. It is about inculcating a Social culture organisation wide. So while „specialists‟ can help educate employees, enable them to get started and evangelise the need and benefits of Social Media, the end objective must not be to find the one „social media person‟ but to create a Social organisation. Travel companies have an additional „social media‟ participant that is very important to recognise and integrate into their Social Media ecosystem – their customer, the travellers themselves. Today consumer travel reviews are given more importance than the communication from travel suppliers (hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and intermediaries like travel agents and travel portals). So rather than focussing on recruiting one person, a travel company should focus on harnessing the world of social media people out there. Something that even companies outside of the travel business will be well served by doing. You can also read this interview on the EyeForTravel website at http://bit.ly/nMiV3Qs

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