(Via MakeUseOf.com)

A New Language Also Requires a New Way of Thinking

A new language also needs a new method for management. While we think this funny image is valuable, we have our own take on it. First, we look at social platforms from the customer’s perspective, and then we look at the entire social landscape from the perspective of the socially engaged enterprise.

“Fans” and “Followers” Are the Wrong Metrics

Trying to apply many of the old methods of “more must be better” in marketing is not the right philosophy for social engagement. In fact, gaining more fans or followers does not correlate with economic value.

For example, a simple set of regression analysis (sixteen different combinations tested) of the relationship between revenue or profitability of the Fortune 500 from 2011 shows that, with the exception of one segment (retail), there was no correlation between revenue size or profitability and number of fans or followers in social channels. Even in the retail segment – some thirteen retail brands in the Fortune 100 list, ranging from Wal-Mart to Target – we found correlations between profitability levels and Facebook/Twitter interactions, but not with sheer fan/follower counts.

We dug even deeper into the retail businesses, and after looking across twenty-four potential content areas that retail brands use, we saw that humanized content (content users could identify with) was shared and discussed most often. It also returned the best correlation with economic gain.

“Promotional” content dominated the post strategies we analyzed among retail companies. However, on average, those posts received the lowest levels of engagement. That’s not to say that companies should refrain from developing promotional content, simply that they must do a better job of couching that content in language consumers understand and are more willing to pay attention to.

Our research also indicates that the sooner a company gains the trust of its consumers with non-promotional content, the more likely they will take in and respond to promotional content later. This brings power to a definition of social engagement that requires a mutual exchange of value independent of transactions that will ultimately drive economic value for your company.

An analyst from Forrester Research recently said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg that F-commerce was failing businesses because, “It was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

The number one difficulty of any kind of social engagement is finding that special place where all the cool people hang out. With over 845 million users, Facebook seems undoubtedly to be one of those special places. Most likely if you can’t break your way into the “bar” conversation, you’re using the wrong line. Our research clearly shows that relatable, humanized content ultimately drives value for a company. Consequently, any content strategy should focus on delivering this type of content.

Each Social Medium Has Unique Personalities

Social is exciting, but it is important to keep in mind that each platform has a unique personality and purpose. As the previous analysis showed, engagement is everything. But, how we engage will differ by the social medium because each medium has its own set of social norms and expectations for interaction.

We call this “The Social Customer Explained” because we found that customers behave uniquely in each environment, often expressing different opinions and feelings.  Understanding how you design content that has a life of its own is such a critical part of success. What works in Twitter is going be different than what works well in Facebook.  This isn’t just about EdgeRank (Facebook’s algorithm for delivering content) or Twitter timing, it’s about the real response a customer has when they see your content and how they choose to interact with it once they’ve seen it.

The Engaged Enterprise – Constituents and Content Focus

While each unique platform is important, your approach to social shouldn’t be about having an elaborate strategy for every single channel, rather it should prioritize a users’ entire digital journey. Of course, choosing the best platforms for your company’s goals will be part of that approach, but it’s important to take a step back and think about the value that you can deliver to each constituent group, not simply how you will use Facebook. Thus, the “Engaged Enterprise Explained” graphic looks at the major constituent groups rather than platforms.

For the first time, we have the opportunity to use these social tools to connect, empower and build meaningful relationships between the enterprise and constituents that will generate remarkable economic value. There is already plenty of evidence for the value of social engagement.

Engaged customers go to the company for assistance or advice. But more than that, they share that advice for you with other curious customers.

Engaged employees express their commitment and interest in the business and how it develops. All CEOs want passionate, engaged employees who share and rejoice in their personal roles within the company.  Truly engaged enterprises connect these pieces.

Please feel free to use these visuals at will as you work towards understanding and implementing social tools. The first donut visual that served as the impetus for this piece is valuable, but it begs more questions than it answers. Social engagement is really about delivering humanized content that matches the purpose of the platform, but also meets the unique needs of constituents across platforms.

Our donut examples may appear whimsical, but each of these illustrates the importance of thinking about the way we might truly interact with any idea or experience that is relevant to our constituents. Start with a simple premise for your own social engagement debate and think about how you use each of these mediums to fully engage.