In countless discussions about social media, digital marketing tools and "what's next," I've determined that it's critical for all marketers to put a framework around their decisions on what tools to use, when to use them and how to get started. I put these decisions into a general "3-R" framework.
Risk: What's your tolerance?
Whether you're catapulting your brand into the social media sphere by simultaneously starting a blog, moderating a customer community and twittering, or if you're simply monitoring social media to get a glimpse of how the world sees you, there's a certain modicum of risk involved. You need to determine how much risk you're willing to take.
Social-media risk can manifest in the following ways:
> Exposure to issues that you'd rather not confront in a Web-based public forum.
> Suppliers and competitors watching your every move and your every flaw.
> Legal ramifications of customers commenting on bugs, defects, recalls, etc.
> Sharing control of your finely crafted brand message with passionate, yet misguided, fans.
Organizations that are ethical, honest, have strong brands and a strong sense of self will prevail and enjoy a low-risk environment in their social media endeavors. However, if your organization is secretive, insecure and does things you wouldn't tell your mother about, then you'll likely find there's simply too much risk for you in social media.
Resources: Do you have them?
This is probably the number one question I hear: "What does it take to do this stuff (blogging, social media, podcasts, etc.)?" For most companies, the cost of technical resources is the least of their worries. In fact, a majority of marketers who deploy social-media campaigns find it's the least expensive part of their budget. It's much more important to have the right people in place to help with your social media efforts. Whether that's a knowledgeable person in-house or a paid consultant, human resources are the most important aspect of putting social media to work in your organization.
Rewards: What do you expect?
Let's be serious. The only reason we're in marketing is to pursue capitalistic rewards. If we really want to pursue social media as part of our marketing - with low risk and few resources - we can certainly have at it. In the final analysis, however, we need to show substantial rewards in order to make it worth our while.
The ROI of social media depends on your overall goals. Most marketers define social-media rewards in the following ways:
> An increase in Website page views from social media sources.
> A larger network of customers and fans on social networking sites.
> Growth in your prospect email database.
> Increased conversation about your company on the Internet.
When considering social media as a component of your marketing mix, remember the three R's: risks, resources and rewards. By vetting your plans against these criteria and asking the right questions, you'll be on the path to social-media success.