So Vegas and BlogWorld 2010…

I would like to say a big thank you to Mashable for making it happen. I had an amazing time and met some amazing people. I felt truly inspired and have returned home with a head full of ideas and an increased sense that my PhD will be useful to industry as well as academia. What more could a girl ask for?! And what do you get? Well, you get my academic expertise, my knowledge of social media, as well as my musings from the key players at BlogWorld. I want to start with introducing my doctoral research, where my social media ideals lie, and give you a couple of quick action points to consider for your social media strategy in this first blog.

So, my wonderful, brilliantly annoying research. People find it amazing and I am always asked how I can possibly be researching a PhD in social media. Until the first time I was asked this I had not really thought it was that strange. My feeling which is similar to blogging is that you should research what you are passionate about. I like social media, I understand social media and I am good at social media, it seemed a no brainer to me.

On the academic side, I was inspired in my honours year at university by the concept of post-modern consumerism. I’m quite into chaos and unpredictability which is probably why I like social media; I also like the consumer information revolution and the idea of consumer tribes, it all points to social media. I’ll not get too carried away with all this theory and keep it to the point. After painstaking hours of research, debate and a few tears I have finally found a solid research focus.

My research considers the use of social media in a high involvement purchase decision context. The research seeks to explore how social content, either produced by the consumer or the brand is perceived and evaluated. Essentially how the relative influence of social content narratives are constructed in the eyes of the consumer. Can I ask you, is this research valuable to your brand?

Like I said before I am interested in all things social, I am a self-confessed social media geek, I use it and I study it. I however do not have mainstream ideals on how to use social media for marketing gain. You may not like what I have to say but I feel I have to disclose where my social media marketing beliefs lie before we start our blogging relationship. I am not an enthusiast of using social media simply as a hybrid element of the promotion mix or using influencers without full disclosure.

Social media is not simply just another channel for you to push brand communication, it’s a conversation. Do not make it a one sided conversation! The principal behind social media is two-way communication, co-creation, engagement, exchange and participation, in other words discussion and learning. Do not limit your brand in a one sided bombardment of marketing communication, you are entering what was developed to be a social space, not a marketing space. Be smart and add value to your brand, engage, listen, and learn from what your customers are saying to you.

Social media is not just another campaign, it a relationship.

Yes, you can promote your campaign on social media but remember social media is so much more. Your customers are talking to you, listen to them, converse with them and tailor your offerings if they are failing. If there is an issue in your brand, social media is not the mystical unicorn that is an instant fix, it’s the beginning of a relationship and current issues with your brand will be magnified. Social media takes time, patience and a human approach, and should be nurtured as a relationship. I personally feel that the ideal behind social media is service which may seem strange considering I am in marketing.

To limit social media to marketing is the number one failure of social media engagement – remember engagement is the key word. Every department within the brand for example, marketing, PR, sales, service and HR can all have a vested interest in social media. The key is to be reflexive enough to engage with customers as they engage with you. If a customer has a customer service query and the marketing department is in charge of social media, how can they quickly answer the query? It is the same if all answers have to go through PR before they are made. So how do we overcome this?

Well you create social media champions within each department, people who are actively interested in social media. The social media champions should work together to create effective engagement strategies and manage the inflows of social media from their respective department. This way the marketing department who seem to be the current ‘owners’ of social media are not bombarded with queries they cannot answer and engagement can occur in a timely manner.

So, what can you take away from my first blog?!

That social media is about engagement and relationships, it is not simply another marketing channel. These relationships will be formed in all brand departments, ownership should not solely be with the marketing department. You company culture must support inter-departmental collaboration. Create social media champions from each department who will support the social media strategy. Social media champions should be personable and human. Social media requires a human approach, personality is key. Social media takes time, do not work it as another campaign, you will be disappointed if you do.

If you have any social media questions feel free to ask.
You can also follow me on twitter @jillney.
Until next time….

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