The Sales Pitch Is Deceiving.
In the days before Madison Avenue was paved with gold, a good door to door salesman often sealed his sales pitch to the vulnerable housewife with,
“Don’t worry, it won’t cost you anything upfront”.
Similarly the perception today is that Social Media is a cost-free medium that Marketers can use in the face of shrinking budgets.
But don’t believe anyone who tells you this. Whether for a small or large enterprise, Social Media has hidden costs that are revealed once you engage it. The first cost is in man hours. The second is data management. This post will focus on the former.
The Human Touch.
Social Media platforms rely on real time conversations and that’s not something that can be automated. It takes flesh and blood to moderate, converse, answer questions, mediate and to engage an online audience. This kind of resource is often underestimated and should you try to rely solely on automation, it may open the door to negative PR.
A case in point was the ‘Best Job In The World’ campaign devised by Sapient Nitro for Tourism Queensland, where resources were severely underestimated and the project could easily have fallen apart, except for the quick resolution of those involved.
Having worked with ad agencies for over 20 years, I can picture the initial campaign pitch:
“We need a Blogger, so we’ll run a promotion to find them, and for six months they’ll extoll the virtues of tourism in the state from a cool house on a tropical island. It’ll be everyone’s dream job.”
“OK – and the cost?”
“A Blogger’s salary and a PR campaign. We’ll do some channel marketing via POS and run some classified ads. We’ll get the tourism suppliers to chip in, and get some cross promotional activity happening. If we want candidates to come from overseas we can run it through Reuters and Breakfast TV via our US parent group’s PR agency.”
While this particular campaign launch was successful and generated an enormous amount of global publicity, the people behind it were ill prepared for the influx of responses.
With a goal of 400,000 impressions, the campaign site quickly hit a million and crashed. The team were forced to engage ten servers and thirty seven staff to respond online, to review the 34,684 application videos and to keep the conversation going 24/7. And to top it off Sapient Nitro staff were also rostered to participate, in order to stop the whole thing falling apart.
It has been claimed that the site garnered 47,548,514 page views in 56 days. The publicity it generated organically has been estimated as being worth AU$100million from an initial spend of $1.7m. International campaigns were later created to maintain the interest, increasing the spend, plus, the Blogger’s tenure was extended.
Fortunately – the winning candidate was diligent in their blogging. But the requirement was far too big an undertaking for one person to handle.
After the launch, moderators were still required to maintain all the connected feeds, that’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube supporting the blog. It was also necessary for others to be involved behind the scenes to provide support in site building, gaming and maintenance across all channels, also teams were required for editing, research, moderation, production and community management, while PR support was ongoing.
Human Resources necessary for Social Media.
Dependent on the approach, I usually suggest that a company that invests in Social Media should appoint a full time Community Manager.
This role should be held by someone inhouse, as it is their role to liase with Marketing and PR to find relevent information to feed through the chosen channels and to have the ability to resolve conflict by reporting to management in instances of crisis management. They should also be thoroughly familiar with the brand culture and competant in Customer Relationship Management.
A Community Manager can work with the Planner to manage the volume of communications and dependent on the bredth of strategy, should have a team of Moderators to assist them.
Moderators can be a team of rostered part timers who have the ability to maintain the brand personality and use the correct voice. For example if your main demographic is Formula One enthusiasts, your moderators must understand the culture and jargon, with an enthusiasm for motorsport.
It is very important to use your Social Media team as a community barometer and for them to be able to report sentiment or identify trends. This will give you the opportunity to identify brand advocates in your audience and allow for targeted communications down the track.
Another piece in the HR puzzle for Social Media is the Data Manager. Having a person who can report and assess sentiment, demographics, statistics and categorise your various communities, will give you unique insight upon which to improve services and build campaigns.
It won’t work without the batteries.
Entering into Social Media unprepared is akin to buying a new appliance from the door to door salesman and finding that it’s useless without the pricy but necessary accessories.
While you might find the cost involved to buy a website rebuild or a customised page on a Social Media platform reasonable, you must also consider the ongoing cost of human resources when setting down your budget.
Consider, when you experience six star service, it always involves the human touch. And logically the core of brand interaction with online communities is based on excellent customer service that evokes a personal touch. It has to be maintained and have continuity to reflect the desired cachet. Be aware and calculate the ongoing costs, because now, you can’t say that nobody told you.