Every year the Vienna Philharmonic puts on a New Year’s Concert in Vienna’s famous Musikverein to the enjoyment of millions of viewers across the globe.
The concert is a 300-plus year tradition among philharmonicistas, but it’s also one where each year’s conductor tries to imprint his own creative stamp to keep the concert relevant with a new generation. At the same time, the concert is a global brand whose business objective is to deliver a predictable performance that meets audience expectations. While fresh in primary content each year, the concert must remain faithful to tradition and minimize risk by aligning with its brand’s business objectives: to sell out seats at 960 euros a pop.
Similarly, marketers must conduct themselves as the voice of their brands. Their mandate: to increase and sustain the loyalty and love of their communities, but do so within the constraints of their businesses and while mitigating risk.
For any effective social-media strategy, the CMO–like a maestro–needs to select the program, define the tempo of engagement, integrate the marketing functions and players, and provide sustained and engaged leadership. The community manager, like the first violinist, takes the direction and ultimately sets the tone and cadence for the entire social team.
But social-media marketing is no longer an experimental endeavor siloed in the marketing department. Social has ramifications for risk and compliance, and it demands real accountability to the entire organization.
Last year saw the largest expansion of social-media activity among major brands. With that increased investment came an impact on related stakeholders, such as the CIO, CISO, board of directors, IT, IT services, legal, and HR–all requiring greater accountability and voice in defining the social-media plan. Just like the woods, winds, percussion, strings, and brass sections of an orchestra, the CMO needs to align and communicate with the key stakeholders and business units to help mitigate risk introduced by larger investments of time and resources in social media.
One additional challenge marketers face is not recognizing the need early enough to frame social-media marketing investment within business objectives. A recent study by the Altimeter Group found that while 70 percent of companies thought their social-media strategies met business objectives, only 43 percent actually had a process for determining how their social strategy impacted business objectives.
For most enterprises, the fundamental imperative that the marketing organization faces, like every other department or line of business, is contribution to revenue and profit. In the context of social marketing and strategy, the three tenants of business management apply as follows:
The best orchestras in the world are built through a rigorous vetting process and years of dedicated professional experience. The best social brands mitigate execution risk on social media by investing in well-trained professional individuals who can assume the responsibility of carrying the voice of the company on major global communication channels. Having the receptionist or marketing intern run the Facebook page as his part-time job is not a recipe for success.
The great news is that new roles have been created within the social team, focused on areas such as social governance, digital strategy, and social infrastructure. Just as yesterday’s webmaster is now a part of the online team, the social guru is expanding into the social networking team and integrating with other functional enterprise teams, such as IT, legal, and sales, with standardized training, support, and accountability.
The Vienna New Year’s concert has evolved from an artistic and cultural endeavor to what is now a multimillion-dollar business with pre- and post-event promotion and content distribution. It’s also a significant revenue contributor to the Austrian government. Social-media marketing, too, is evolving beyond likes and engagement measures to an advanced communication channel for the enterprise–an evolution of communications and commerce.
But the boardroom is demanding more science from social: Increased budget for social media is a direct function of its impact on increasing revenue and profit while not creating risk and repair costs. As mentioned, the focus of process has now shifted to how social impacts the business, not if it impacts the business.
For example, Eric Ludwig, vice president and general manager of Rosetta Stone, has focused on how the science of ROI in the context of audience targeting and retargeting, verifiable user behavior, and action on social directly impacts sales. It’s no longer just a matter of determining whether an activity directly (or otherwise) resulted in a sale; other variables, including velocity, friction, value creation, and the reciprocating social impact must be measured in the context of the larger social investment.
Part of the ROI equation is how social can increase profit by driving down cost in the marketing process. One of the largest cost drivers for marketers is increased engagement directly correlating to increased cost of moderation. Some of the largest brands attribute as much as 60 percent of their social budgets to moderation or related costs. These costs can be mitigated through standardized engagement policies for conduct and content on brand-owned sites, regular communication of policies to communities, and technology solutions that sustain the brand-consistent presence on social networks.
The instruments of creativity–whether actual instruments or digital content creation–have not changed, but the technology to broadcast them has tremendously. Social-media marketing, as a legitimate marketing function for the enterprise, needs to live in harmony with enterprise IT and risk infrastructure, policies, and governance, and to adapt to the evolving risk to its effectiveness as a communication channel. The time is ripe for those brands with sizeable social-marketing investments to benefit from the consolidation of the market and new platforms. The goal now should be to rationalize the quantity of tools they have today, and to begin investing in tools that help mitigate risk and thus help the bottom line.
Risks, you say? Well, yes, there are many risks within social-media activity, including inadvertent publishing mistakes, poor brand or community moderation, poor brand judgment during crises, brand hijacking, account hacking, user data privacy breaches, inauthentic engagement, and poor response tracking for campaigns or content distribution. Altimeter Group’s Alan Webber does a great job outlining social-risk management and its impact on the enterprise.
People and process will likely have the biggest impact on driving the top line. However, investing in social technology to scale up your business while mitigating risks will, in the end, have the largest impact on the bottom line.
At the end of the day, we all know that social marketing is a critical part of the business marketing mix. Marketing teams have a new creative channel with which to express the brand. But like the New Year’s Concert, the trick is to keep the social-marketing program fresh and authentic, but to never forget it’s to support the business. Because business doesn’t like risk.