Customer Centricity
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Issue #186

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In this edition of our newsletter, we are pleased to introduce a series of articles authored by a former client of Customer Centricity, Brian Waldman, who has transitioned to the world of Internet Strategy consulting.  In this series, Brian will share insightful perspectives on Social Media and what it takes to be successful in engaging with your customers and partners.

The Myth of Social Media for Businesses
by Brian Waldman

There are many examples of famously embarrassing errors in retrospective judgment.  For instance: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” (Thomas Watson, IBM 1943) or "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" (Ken Olson, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977).

I’m not saying I am wiser than those two great, and extremely successful men, but I am certainly as capable of making wildly regrettable proclamations.  One that sticks out in my mind is from around 1991 when, in college, I told one of my roommates, “I don’t get this email thing.  Nobody even has it!”  Well, here comes another…

I just don’t get why businesses are so focused on social media!  There, I said it. 

Of course, I’m partially kidding, but only partly.  After all, this is an article going out to a few thousand business people, many of whom are working hard to make social media work for their companies.  I was one of those people not too long ago and probably will be again.  I’m trying to get you to read the remainder of the article and now that you are sucked in, anticipating my short sighted and embarrassing views, I will explain.

Social media is a wonderful thing for friends, celebrities and families.  From time to time, it is even great for businesses.  Truth is, many companies just don’t know what it takes to be successful.  They waste time and money, or worse, do real harm to their business by engaging in social media.  Why are they doing this?  Imagine the understaffed Customer Support or Marketing VP in a meeting and the CEO asking, “so what’s our social media strategy?”  Uh-oh!  After all, they don’t have extra time, employees or budget just lying around.  They just finished fighting to keep their budget flat from last year.  Plus, there is no roadmap to success with social media and perhaps they even know the organization won’t commit to do what it takes to make it work.  They don’t dare say this out loud because EVERYONE is doing social media and the CEO just asked for their plan!  Sound familiar?

Flash forward 6 months. There is a Facebook Page with a few hundred followers, most of whom are employees and competitors, with occasional posts about the latest office birthday or quirky facts that have nothing to do with the business.  Perhaps a Twitter account managed by a 22 year old Intern linking to “interesting articles” on behalf of the CEO or other executives.  The blog hasn’t been updated in 3 months but there are “recent posts” still listed on the homepage.  All of this is a waste of time.

Social Media is complicated.  Successful efforts require commitment in the form of people and dollars.  It demands a comprehensive plan which aligns with the ongoing activities and goals of the business.  Most importantly, it needs buy-in from Senior Management in a way many other Marketing or Support programs do not.  Why?  Because Social Media cannot be faked and it cannot be done half way.  A little Social Media is worse than no social media at all.  You can’t dabble in it and you can’t turn it over to an Intern.

So what does it take to be successful?  I will list a few things here and, hopefully, explore them in more detail in future newsletters.

  1. A culture of openness and engagement - Social media must sound authentic in order to be engaging. Authenticity comes from people behaving in a normal way. If you are scared about what your customers might say, and how your staff might respond in an open forum, beware!
  2. An owner – Social media must be owned by someone internally. Companies can outsource content, creative and even some level of engagement to any number of fine marketing agencies, but that doesn’t mean it can be done in a vacuum. Someone in your organization needs to be a champion and owner of the channel.
  3. Commitment from the highest level – The CEO might want the company to have a social media plan but is she also willing to allocate budget and lead the way with engagement and participation? If the CEO doesn’t engage and little to no budget is allocated, what are the chances of success?
  4. Integration with current efforts – Whether you are engaging in social media for support, marketing or some other reason, it must become part of every discussion. How will the company use social media in the case of a product failure our outage? How will the website remain updated with the posts, tweets and other efforts? How will the current marketing campaigns be impacted or enhanced?
  5. A goal – Marketing for marketing’s sake is always a waste of time and money. What can you expect to gain and how do you expect to get there? Be realistic and specific about what you expect and then weigh that against the risk and cost.
  6. An audience that cares what you have to say – Let’s face it, some companies just aren’t all that interesting and their customers might not really want to engage with them. It is entirely possible that your company is one of them.

In future articles we will explore, in more detail, what it takes to be successful with Social Media. In the meantime, if you are wrestling with your Social Media strategy, feel free to contact us. We are here to serve!

About Brian Waldman

Brian Waldman is an Internet Entrepreneur and Consultant with over 12 years of senior leadership experience in Web and eCommerce Strategy.  From the early days of Google to cutting edge Social Media tactics, Brian has learned how, and how not, to be successful leveraging the Internet to achieve business goals across different industries and customer types.

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Recommended Reading

For a comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management, you are encouraged to read CRM In Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships.

As described on

This comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) draws on Barton Goldenberg's 20+ years of experience guiding firms to a successful implementation of CRM solutions and techniques. Goldenberg demonstrates how the right mix of people, process, and technology can help firms achieve a superior level of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and new business. Beginning with a primer for executives who need to get quickly up-to-speed on CRM, the book covers a full range of critical issues including integration challenges and security concerns, and illuminates CRM's key role in the 24/7/365 real-time business revolution. CRM in Real Time is an essential guide for any organization seeking to maximize customer relationships, coordinate customer-facing functions, and leverage the power of the Internet as business goes real time.


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