One-size-fits-all Social Media Solutions… A false prophecy!

As could be expected, many within franchising entered the year determined to make things happen. As also could be expected, many turned to social media, believing it could be the answer to improving sales at the unit level, increasing interest in their franchise opportunity, and considered social media a low or no-cost alternative to what they’ve done in years past.

Unfortunately, many have failed in their social media efforts. The reasons? Well, many did not understand the ins and outs of social media marketing. Some didn’t even understand the basics of the most fundamental social media; Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And others failed because they were just not 100% committed to the effort. But, are these the real reasons they failed?

Well, as you may have guessed, the answer is, “No!” Ultimately, failure in social media is a direct result of failing to plan. Referring to the old adage, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail” causes me to shake my head in bewilderment at the statements posted in many of the online discussion groups recommending what clearly points to one-size-fits-all social media solutions. How much planning goes into a one-size-fits-all solution? How much commitment actually goes into a one-size-fits-all solution from both the consultant making the recommendation and the client that signs on? How much does a one-size-fits-all solution address outside the realm of the basic social media platforms? I don’t believe it’s ironic or a coincidence that the same questions I pose here are similar to the reasons many fail in their attempt to utilize social media.

Success in social media takes hard work. It takes a well-defined strategy based upon a clear, concise understanding of objectives and desired results. It takes a firm commitment of dedicated resources in both time and money. It takes knowing who the target audience is, where they congregate and communicate online, what messages need to be delivered to create interest, and seperately, to create a call for action. It takes full comprehension of a contingency plan based upon what if…? In essence, it takes planning!

Brian Solis, author the best-selling book on social media, Engage!, and Fast Company expert blogger, recently wrote an article on this very subject, In Social Media, Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail. He wrote, “I’ve received a series of inbound requests for comments based on a report from Gartner, an IT analyst firm, that estimates as many as 70-percent of social media campaigns will fail in 2011. There are a series of discussions hitting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse exploring this very topic, some elementary and others on the right path. I contacted Gartner earlier this week and the problem is, that this data isn’t new at all. In fact, these discussions are fueled by information originally published in 2008 and in early 2010. Yet another example of the importance of fact-checking in the era of real-time reporting, yes, but, when I paused for a moment, I appreciated the timelessness of this discussion.

Are many of the social media programs in play yielding tangible results?

No …

Are they designed to impact the bottom line or are they tied to meaningful business outcomes?

No …

The truth is that you can’t fail in anything if success is never defined.”

To franchisors, I suggest, before choosing what appears to be a one-size-fits-all social media solution, take the time and expend the effort to develop a social media strategy that not only reflects your current status, but one that can evolve as your system grows. And, be sure to involve your franchisees as it is essential that local objectives to drive sales are integrated in the overall plan that may also include franchise development objectives. Keep in mind, many plans will include multiple objectives that may require that different social media be utilized for optimum results. And don’t forget to integrate your social media plan with your overall marketing and development plans!

Solis concludes his article, “Success is not a prescription. There isn’t one way to excel. That’s the point. Success requires definition based on intentions, goals, and mutual value … across the organization from the top down, bottom up, inside out and outside in. Success is defined departmentally and also at the brand level. There’s much to do …”

Read the complete article HERE.

* This post was originally published on this site July 2011

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Social Media Basics – An Overview

As a result of the many conversations about social media I had with franchise professionals at the recent IFA Convention, I posted on this site, Social Media – Before Diving In, Know How to Swim. It seems many within franchising, and most likely throughout small business, continue to put off entering the world of social media. On the surface, the old and by now, tired, excuse of “it’s a fad” appears to be just a smoke screen. The real, true reason is more in line with “I just don’t know how to get started” and/or “If I start, I want to do so correctly.”

Sure, many, including me, have said this before as people expressed fear of social media, “just jump in!” But, I feel it’s necessary to clarify. I do believe one should jump right in, but at least have some fundamentals in place to ensure your experience is both enjoyable and successful. I clarified the same with the franchise professionals I met in Vegas and expanded upon it with Social Media – Before Diving In, Know How to Swim.

As is often the case, one post spurs additional questions and requests, which led to my 4-part series on Social Media Basics. Several years into the social media movement and what appears to be very fundamental, is actually monumental to individuals and organizations still sitting on the sidelines wondering how to get into the game. Hopefully, the 4-part series will help them take that first step on the field.

The series started with Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of Social Media Within a Franchise Organization. Basically, it was an outline of some very basic instruction as it related to each of the 5 “W” questions, and of course, the “How” question.

Next, we needed to introduce the most widely utilized social media, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with basic instruction points for each. This segment, Starting Your Social Media Program with the “Big Three” accomplished this objective.

The third segment, An Hour a Day With the Big Three Social Networks continued to build the program as it addressed the time issue of social media. Many newcomers have heard that social media can be a major time commitment. As such, they have been reluctant in starting their social media experience because they don’t have hours per day to commit.

Obviously, it’s important to gauge efforts against results, and to throw in a measure of expectations as well. The last segment of the series focused on social media analytics from a very basic perspective. Social Media Metrics: Not Yet a Science! touched upon the key issues of social media metrics including attention, participation, authority, influence and sentiment. It also touched on some of the obvious goals franchise executives would like to achieve in their social media efforts along with the not-so-obvious benefits that can be achieved as well.

So, there you have it – a 4-part series on Social Media Basics, precluded by an overview of what to do before getting started, that combined, will provide a basic foundation for social media success. Keep in mind, this is the equivalent of driver’s education. But it is the first step to enjoying your life behind the wheel… in social media.

Happy Networking!

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Social Media – Before Diving In, Know How to Swim!

Very few of us like to admit failure. Especially when it comes to something that appears to be so easily done by others. But just because it appears easy, is that reason enough to dive right in? Certainly not!

I remember being six years old and spending a typical day at Coney Island. On this particular day my family left the beach and ventured into the Steeplechase Pool. I recall staring at the line of kids of all ages as they anxiously awaited their turn on the diving board. I watched as they bounced up and down on the board and finally made their exit from the board and subsequent entry into the water below. Quickly rising to the surface I marveled at how effortlessly they made their way to the ladder on the side of the pool, scampered out of the water and darted right back in line to do it all over again… and again.

It seemed so easy, and definitely so much fun. I gave it some quick thought and decided to join the action and dive right in. And, dive right in I did! Things didn’t go so well from that point as I vividly recall paddling like crazy, just trying to stay afloat. I remember what seemed like thousands of bubbles rising up all around me as I could barely see sunlight beyond the water line. For what seemed like an eternity, I tried to get to the surface and take a breath. Certainly, someone will notice me drowning, right? Or, will they only notice when I hit the bottom of the pool? Well, the next thing I remember was opening my eyes and seeing a bunch of people hovering over me discussing whether I was dead or alive. Others wanted to know if it was okay to begin diving again! Some just laughed.

Have you experienced something similar with your social media efforts? Thinking about how easy it appeared, did you just dive right in? After all, you’ve seen your teenage kids pounding away on their laptops or smartphones posting on MySpace and Facebook, claiming all the while that they have hundreds or thousands of friends. As you pondered this new world of social media, you heard words that sound like cartoon characters… How else can you explain your first impression of Twitter, Gowalla, Foursquare, Digg, Technorati, Tumblr or StumbleUpon? And, cartoons are simple, right? So, you rationalized that social media was simple, everyone was doing it, and if kids can do it, so can I. Watch out below as you dive in head first. Worse yet, watch out below as you lead your organization to the end of the diving board!

Alright already. Enough of the sensationalistic attempt at journalism. But, I know you get the picture.

So, what do you do if your social media efforts are missing the mark? Instead of giving up and quitting… regroup and prepare. That’s right. Regroup and prepare!

Preparing for Social Media Success

Define why you’re involved in social media in the first place. What are your objectives for doing so? What do you hope (expect) to achieve by your efforts? This is the exploratory stage.

Next, identify who you’re trying to target with your messages or who you would like to share information with. Of course, it would help a great deal if you knew where those targets communicated and congregated online. After all, you’re not interested in talking to yourself, right? This is the identifying stage.

Developing a plan on how to spread your message or share information is the next fundamental step. The plan should include how much time (resources) you’re able to dedicate to your social media efforts. Messages and information? What should I say? Where do I find information others will be interested in? Obviously, your plan should include these as well. This is all part of the development stage.

Taking action is next on the agenda as you execute your plan of action. Post, tweet, link, connect to your heart’s content… provided it’s in line with your plan that you painstakingly developed. This is where you’ll save precious time and not put yourself in a position to consider social media a major time suck. Stay focused on the task at hand. Tweak and revise along the way, always keeping your objectives in mind. This is the execution stage.

Last on the list is to establish benchmarks based upon your objectives, expectations and desired results. This is your scorecard and one that should be on the forefront of your mind every day. It is there for you to analyze your efforts and results. Basically, it’s your social media P&L. Did you achieve what you set out do? Why, or why not? This is the analysis and quantification stage.

There you have it. A relatively simple social media plan for success that I fondly refer to as Social Media e-IDEA which is an acronym for Explore, Identify, Develop, Execute, and Analyze. Try it. I believe you’ll like it and will find that it will keep your head above water in your social media efforts.

By the way, the most painful part of my near-drowning experience wasn’t from the water in my lungs, or from the hard pounding on my chest and back, or even from the embarrassment and humiliation I felt in front of my friends and family. No, it was the pain of my aunt pulling on my ear, while scolding me for doing something that I was not prepared to do!

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Understanding Social Media Metrics

bubblus-social-mediaSocial media is exciting, and is finally being embraced by franchise organizations. Many are beginning to test the waters, albeit very cautiously. Some have been pleasantly surprised and wonder why they didn’t venture in this direction sooner. Others, have been quite confused but are reluctant to give up. Perhaps if they could quantify and analyze their efforts, they would be more confident in their efforts. But where do they start?

First, they must understand some key factors regarding the metrics of social media in order to be able to plug in numbers that make sense. Certain elements of social media metrics need to be defined, that may ultimately convince them and the rest of their management team, there is value in creating “noise” online.

So, let’s take a look at key social media metrics as the first step towards quantifying and analyzing social media efforts. Once understood, it will be easier to track trends and results.

Volume – The number of comments, blogs, posts, tweets, links, etc., about the brand, the competition, and the industry segment.

Sentiment – The positive, negative, or indifferent consumer reaction to the brand or a topic, which can be measured by text analytics and natural-language processing.

Emotion – The reasons that a consumer felt, good, bad, or indifferent that point how the company can resolve his / her problem or how the business can change and improve.

Topic / Issue – The context (e.g., product, customer service, advertising, competitor, etc.) in which the brand is being discussed. Nielsen’s Brand Association Map helps visually associate the relationship between terms; a Google AdWords keyword-expansion tool helps improve the relevancy of the company’s selections.

Source – Where the conversation is occurring (e.g., Twitter, blog, discussion board).

Author (Influencer) – The people talking about the brand and their social media impact (e.g. number of followers, readers, commenters).

Virality – The reach of the brand and relevant topics around the brand (e.g., how many people are reading, posting, linking, and sharing).

Source: Alex Burmaster, Nielsen Online