Dear Social Media Santa, Here’s My Wish List

Wrapping up 2010 with relief, if not joy, good little marketers are looking at the year ahead with both optimism and trepidation. Even the marketers that triumphed this year know Santa’s lump of coal awaits those who misjudge the rapidly evolving communications landscape as an aberration instead of a permanent shift in power from brand to consumer. To ensure good tidings in 2011, here is a social media shopping list worth checking once — if not twice — to slay your competition.

1. Social Media Strategy

Although more than half of all large companies have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, fewer than 25% have a clearly defined social strategy. Tactical experimentation pleased some, but left many CEOs wondering whether social media like the mythical Rudolph could really drive results. Since yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a social strategy complete with CEO-pleasing metrics, put this on top of your shopping list — finding the expertise internally and externally to make it happen.

2. Dedicated Social Chair

In 2010, social media was treated by many marketers as a part-time affair, assigned to the junior staffers who just happened to have the most friends on Facebook. Unable to dedicate the time required, they also lacked the experience to put social media into the context of broader customer engagement, thus relegating social to a sexy but modest marketing experiment. Fixing this means assigning at least one dedicated professional who can champion social strategy internally, while coordinating execution across all the departments it can and should touch.

3. A Metric System

Given all the roles social media can play, from customer service to product development and WOM to lead gen, putting precise metrics in place is challenging even for those with well-defined strategies. That said, new tools are emerging that should make measuring results easier and well within the budgets of even the most cash-strapped operations. Startup ArgyleSocial, for example, links social media activity with “real business value,” for under $300/month.

4. An Aggregation Plan

One of the unexpected yet joyous benefits of a strong social program is its potential to significantly improve organic search results. But in order to turn social content into the gift that keeps on giving, brands need to aggregate and archive the content on their own Web sites. HubSpot, a software-as-a-service (Saas) platform, makes this process relatively easy for small business. Larger companies will seek out more robust solutions, including a surprisingly strong social offering from IBM.

5. Customer Feedback Loop

While listening to the customer has long been an important business credo, it is only lately that marketers are turning to online tools like Get Satisfaction that truly enable and track instantaneous feedback. In 2011, offering customers the ability to engage with fellow customers right on the company website will become more the rule than the exception, especially as companies come to realize that a few negative comments increase credibility and ultimately increase online sales. These conversations also enhance search results by creating tag-able content.

6. Social Business Enlightenment

In the brave new world of social business enlightenment, all businesses are social and all social is business. Even large companies will want to present all their employees, not just those in customer service and marketing, with unfettered, yet guided, access to social media tools. These employees will begin to see what the fuss is all about, quickly realizing that social isn’t just something their kids do but rather a way that generates leads, captures sales, services customers, and advocates new product development well beyond this holiday season.

If you’d like to add to this social media shopping list, just send me an email, preferably not addressed to the North Pole.

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