Social Media: What Procurement needs to know!

Social Media: What Procurement needs to know!Over the years social media has become more and more prevalent in big business. I have found through consulting for FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies that there are strange myths about how social media should be handled in these types of businesses.  Some feel it is Marketing’s responsibility, others feel it is Corporate Communications’ or HR’s responsibility, and yet still some feel it is the responsibility of the Customer Services department.

Compounded with this, we typically find that these areas of the business who are “doing social media” don’t share their data, and worse yet, they may have several different monitoring and campaign software packages sprinkled throughout the business, as well as various agencies, all typically providing different ways of reporting on their ‘successes’.  Then we often learn that the Google Analytics team does not have social media in the funnel or it is not set up properly as a sales channel, and again, their data is typically different than what the software and/or agency is reporting.

These techniques end up costing companies hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.  And let’s not forget, on top of all this, the CEO wants the business to embrace social media and everyone should be tweeting… and what companies soon discover is that nothing is joined-up and there is no central function managing the overall group-wide strategy.

Social media can have huge benefits for a business, but first we must understand the main areas in which social media can benefit an enterprise business.

There are typically four key areas you need to be aware of when it comes to social media for enterprise size businesses:

  • Social Media Monitoring (Corporate Comms, IR, HR and Crisis) 

Good social media reputation monitoring is instrumental in helping you gain knowledge about what individuals are saying via social media about your products, services, brands and staff.  This enables you to learn how to better respond to customers, change marketing and advertising tactics and sadly, sometimes see what disgruntled employees are sharing via the various channels.  We also know that you are now more likely to hear about a crisis on social media before traditional news channels, so social media monitoring is the fundamental corner stone for any social media strategy. We even know that Investor Relations are using social media to help CEOs and CFOs learn what investors and analysts are saying about earning statements via social media, see my post ‘Social Media for Investor Relations… Really?’ for more information on this topic.

  • Social Media Campaigns (Marketing)

Social media campaigns must be integrated into your overall marketing mix, they are not stand alone marketing or PR tactics.  Use the data you find from your social media monitoring to help create innovative campaigns that are of interest to your target markets.  Whether you use an agency or in-house team, you must establish your business objectives, identify your target audience, create engaging and share-worthy content and finally, integrate your social media with all other aspects of your online presence.

  • Social Media Training

Believe it or not, not everyone understands social media.  You must train your staff on the do’s and don’ts of social media.  Every employee can be an advocate of your brand but sadly mistakes can happen.  Employees should never have a personal account linked with a business platform as the wrong post to the wrong account can severely damage a brand.  You must remember, nothing ever completely disappears on social media.  Staff training, coupled with a social media policy and tone of voice guide are instrumental in your overall social media strategy.

  • Social Media Customer Care (Customer Service)

I have seen time and time again companies try to apply the ‘call centre’ model to social media, and it simply does not work.  Your team has to be trained in all the workings of social media AND customer service.  Once you reply to that Tweet it is out there forever and a simple typo can wreak havoc on a company!  I will leave that to your imagination but a classic customer care mistake was… “Thank you, someone from our Pubic Relations department will get in touch shortly!”  You also have the ability to proactively reach-out to people on social media. If you sell coffee and someone tweets ‘I could really use a coffee’, we reach out and offer them a voucher to try your coffee!

Social Media: What Procurement needs to know!In the end it will all come down to your type of business model, however I always recommend that you have a central function that oversees your social media activities across the company.  This is typically a Group Head of Social Media that works with IR, Corporate Comms, PR, Marketing, Crisis and Customer Services teams to ensure alignment.  This model will help keep your head count low as well as provide cost savings as you don’t have duplication is the various departments.  You only need one monitoring tool and one campaign software.  There are a lot of software packages out there so make sure you review them or use a social media consultant to help you find the right tools.

There are two approaches you can take with your social media strategy.

  • Outsourced Social Media

There are only a few true social media agencies out there at the moment that can offer you a complete social media solution from monitoring to campaigns to customer service and consulting.  You will find however, many PR agencies offer social media campaign services, some do it well, and others not quite so well, make sure you ask to see their ‘successes’.

  • In-house Social Media

Many businesses say, “we need to have an in-house solution” as we know our products and services best.  At one point I would have agreed, but as social media is becoming more of a specialised field, I now believe that people who are specially trained in this field are a must. I would suggest at the very least you use a social media consultant to help build your social media structure with your in-house team.

You need to make a list of pros and cons when it comes to how you want to set-up your social media strategy.  There are some good social media consultants that have experience with enterprise size businesses and this small up-front investment can save your thousands in costs down the road.

I hope you have found these tips helpful, and of course please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.



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