Social media strategy today at large companies

I’ve been reading a lot of posts and tweets about how companies need to “get with the times” and stop thinking about social media from a short-term perspective. BL has a post that outlines some of the short term thinking that’s gone on in the evolution and embrace of the medium. Let’s get something straight – it’s being embraced.

Someone asked me back in 2005 how I got clients to “buy in” to running what were then called word of mouth campaigns and my response was “someone willing to take a risk”. By risk I didn’t mean one that could get them fired, but one that intrinsically felt like the right thing to do. Time, research and measurement tools have proven those brave marketers and communicators right, however the game has changed significantly since then. Sure, you may have gone to a conference recently and heard that some big Fortune 500 isn’t sure how this whole social media thing works. As someone who works with them daily, I’m here to tell you — that is purely a myth.

Yes, there are companies that haven’t engaged — but with good reason. I actually heard a prominent Twitterer (nice distinction) tell a Fortune 500 that “all of you and your brands should be on Twitter”. I guess that’s the difference between being a professional Tweeter and actually working on client business — those of us in the trenches, working on said business, through the org charts and politics and mess of who owns what, actually know the difference between a communications objective for a non-regulated industry and those that have severe restrictions and limited guidance from regulatory officials imposed on them. Bottom line is that when you ask ignorant folks who live in a small, social media bubble for their advice you’ll get their limited knowledge.

BL makes a good point that this is a long term strategy, but as she and I had it out a while ago on her blog on the Twitter debate re: brands engaging, it’s recently just started to make sense for brands to incorporate it into their marketing and communications. It’s called critical mass.

Sure, the minority of vocal Twitterers can easily cause your brand headaches (see: Motrin Moms), but the reality is that most people aren’t using Twitter and are probably over on Facebook. And they still deserve the same respect and attention that Twitterers get from the likes of @comcastcares, @jetblue and the rest. In fact, I’d argue those who haven’t bought in on the latest social media marketing craze deserve more.

So are big companies really engaging in social media? Yes. And are they trying to do things properly and not have disparate channels, voices, personalities, processes and metrics around it? Yes. And are they trying to figure out that the bad advice many of the so-called “experts” are giving don’t really apply to their brand, company and structure? You betcha.

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