Yesterday, CNET reported that Adam Serner of Gartner will be presenting on social media marketing next week with the prediction that while over 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will attempt an online social-networking campaign, 50 percent will fail.

Personally, I think he’s being a little conservative in that estimate.  If as many as 50 percent of the Fortune 1000 social media marketing campaigns begun next year succeed, I’d be surprised.

I agree with Jason’s comment on the CNET article that for the most part, the problem isn’t so much that social media isn’t a good, viable communications channel for companies.  It’s that companies still don’t get many fundamental differences between traditional and social media, both at the strategy development phase and the follow-up phase of determining success or failure.  They radically underestimate the time frame it takes to get genuine results in social media, and they often don’t really grasp what those results ought to be.

Companies are still trying to shoehorn traditional media tactics in the front end of the process, and reacting with surprise when they don’t fit.  They often spend exorbitant amounts of time and energy trying to get traditional measurements out of these efforts, and finding it about as easy as getting milk from a billy goat. The problem isn’t techniques and tools–it’s that milk doesn’t come from billy goats.

So with all that said, I have had the chance to observe and be involved in social media initiatives that do succeed.  I’ve also seen several crash and burn, and been around for the inevitably-blogged autopsy.  So that said, here are 5 tips for making sure that your social media efforts in 2009 fall into the 50% that succeeds.

When Developing a Social Media Initiative for Your Company:

  • Keep in mind what users want to accomplish on social networks, and provide tools that help them do it. A great example of that is FedEx’s Launch a Package Facebook application.  They saw a need (users couldn’t send attachments via Facebook’s native messaging client), the need fit their core brand perfectly (fast, reliable delivery), and they reaped the rewards:  100,000 installs in 48 hours, 1st branded app to make #1 on Facebook’s Most Active page, and 0ver 50% of users returning more than 10 times after install.
  • Give customers a real voice, and LISTEN. The main problem with 99% of corporate blogs out there? They still don’t get that social media is a two-way communications medium. Dell finally got this, after several missteps, and now they’re on the road to making social media a communications channel that actually makes a difference in customer satisfaction.
  • Do your homework. Don’t just work from your traditional assumptions about your audience–ask them what they want.  Patrick at 10e20′s post about successful social media marketing makes a good point: if your audience is made up of readers, then give them text.  If they love video, give them video.  It seems obvious, but a lot of companies fail to ask the audience a question as simple and elemental as what format they prefer for content.
  • Stop looking for the flippin’ magic bullet.  Kodak’s social media team has enjoyed a lot of success this year with their Olympics-related work because at a fundamental level, they understand social media’s place as PART of an overall communications strategy.  Contrast that measured, long-view approach to the typical GMOOT attitude with which companies approach social media.  Which leads us to…
  • Think holistically, think long-haul, and remember, it’s “ready, aim, fire.” Know what you can expect to achieve with social media, and develop goals and measures of success accordingly. In fact, I would say don’t even think about a “social media campaign” until you’ve got a “social media communications plan” in place–or a social media section within your overall corporate communications plan.  I’m not saying you can’t have successful, short-term communications initiatives within social media. But doing it when you aren’t participating in an ongoing way–when you have no “home base” for two-way online communication between you and your customers–is like dropping in on someone else’s house party with a megaphone for the express purpose of announcing a big sale you have next week.  Sure, it’s timely.  It might even be the right audience.  But it’s sure as heck not going to be well-received.

So with those five suggestions as a lead, and bearing in mind that according to our survey, 39% of you guys feel you’re qualified to counsel others on social media, I open it up to the community for discussion.  What have you seen work?  What’s the recipe for an epic FAIL?  How do the CMOs out there make sure that if and when they bring their brand into social media, it’s going to be in the right 50%?

I’m all ears.

Image courtesy bizior on sxc.hu
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About Kat French

Kat French

Kat French is the Digital Operations Manager at CafePress. An exceptional writer both on the web and in other genres, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in community management, SEO/PPC, social media strategy and program management. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, Optima Batteries and more.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://www.leadernetworks.com vdimauro

    Online communities for business are different than consumer communities. while listening is a good start, it is not enough to make B2B communities succeed. Building online communities for business are much more difficult than consumer communities and have entirely different success measures.

    For professionals to spend time and to make contributions, the online community or professional network but fundamentally accelerate their business processes… it must make their work easier and allow them to do things online faster and better.

    • KatFrench

      I would agree, conditionally. Optimized, fast and simple UI is going to be a more important element for B2B communities–but I think even consumer communities are going to have to pay more attention to streamlined UI, as EVERYTHING gets leaner and meaner in the upcoming months.

      But thanks for the well-thought-out response.

  • http://www.leadernetworks.com vdimauro

    Online communities for business are different than consumer communities. while listening is a good start, it is not enough to make B2B communities succeed. Building online communities for business are much more difficult than consumer communities and have entirely different success measures.

    For professionals to spend time and to make contributions, the online community or professional network but fundamentally accelerate their business processes… it must make their work easier and allow them to do things online faster and better.

  • http://www.leadernetworks.com vdimauro

    Online communities for business are different than consumer communities. while listening is a good start, it is not enough to make B2B communities succeed. Building online communities for business are much more difficult than consumer communities and have entirely different success measures.

    For professionals to spend time and to make contributions, the online community or professional network but fundamentally accelerate their business processes… it must make their work easier and allow them to do things online faster and better.

  • KatFrench

    Indeed I am! Thanks for the response, Gavin. :)

  • KatFrench

    Indeed I am! Thanks for the response, Gavin. :)

  • KatFrench

    I would agree, conditionally. Optimized, fast and simple UI is going to be a more important element for B2B communities–but I think even consumer communities are going to have to pay more attention to streamlined UI, as EVERYTHING gets leaner and meaner in the upcoming months.

    But thanks for the well-thought-out response.

  • KatFrench

    I would agree, conditionally. Optimized, fast and simple UI is going to be a more important element for B2B communities–but I think even consumer communities are going to have to pay more attention to streamlined UI, as EVERYTHING gets leaner and meaner in the upcoming months.

    But thanks for the well-thought-out response.

  • http://www.bazaarvoice.com Leigh Choate – Bazaarvoice

    Great article and insights. I work for Bazaarvoice, and we enable companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy to gather and display product reviews on their site. And yes, they do read through negative reviews and make changes – we've seen a lot of companies take this feedback to heart. We're all about our solutions being 100% measurable, and focus there.

    It's sometimes a slow road, but we advise and encourage businesses to read, respond, and react to what they're customers are saying. That's the only way to win.

    I'm new to this blog but I'll be back. Check out http://www.bazaarblog.com for more insights on social media and how companies are using UGC on their sites.

  • http://www.bazaarvoice.com Leigh Choate – Bazaarvoice

    Great article and insights. I work for Bazaarvoice, and we enable companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy to gather and display product reviews on their site. And yes, they do read through negative reviews and make changes – we've seen a lot of companies take this feedback to heart. We're all about our solutions being 100% measurable, and focus there.

    It's sometimes a slow road, but we advise and encourage businesses to read, respond, and react to what they're customers are saying. That's the only way to win.

    I'm new to this blog but I'll be back. Check out http://www.bazaarblog.com for more insights on social media and how companies are using UGC on their sites.

  • http://www.bazaarvoice.com Leigh Choate – Bazaarvoice

    Great article and insights. I work for Bazaarvoice, and we enable companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy to gather and display product reviews on their site. And yes, they do read through negative reviews and make changes – we've seen a lot of companies take this feedback to heart. We're all about our solutions being 100% measurable, and focus there.

    It's sometimes a slow road, but we advise and encourage businesses to read, respond, and react to what they're customers are saying. That's the only way to win.

    I'm new to this blog but I'll be back. Check out http://www.bazaarblog.com for more insights on social media and how companies are using UGC on their sites.

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  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    This is a fascinating topic and even more dynamic responses. I enjoyed the Kodak chime-in; shows they're monitoring their brand and care about prospective customers.

    I'm troubled, though. I came across this article via a search on “Ready Aim Fire” vs “Ready Fire Aim,” and I wonder why there only have to be two choices. If those traditional terms are what firms have ALWAYS used, isn't now the time – as social media changes the concept of doing business from the accepted traditional to the new – that the strategy also changes?

    Why not create a new concept?

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    This is a fascinating topic and even more dynamic responses. I enjoyed the Kodak chime-in; shows they're monitoring their brand and care about prospective customers.

    I'm troubled, though. I came across this article via a search on “Ready Aim Fire” vs “Ready Fire Aim,” and I wonder why there only have to be two choices. If those traditional terms are what firms have ALWAYS used, isn't now the time – as social media changes the concept of doing business from the accepted traditional to the new – that the strategy also changes?

    Why not create a new concept?

  • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

    This is a fascinating topic and even more dynamic responses. I enjoyed the Kodak chime-in; shows they're monitoring their brand and care about prospective customers.

    I'm troubled, though. I came across this article via a search on “Ready Aim Fire” vs “Ready Fire Aim,” and I wonder why there only have to be two choices. If those traditional terms are what firms have ALWAYS used, isn't now the time – as social media changes the concept of doing business from the accepted traditional to the new – that the strategy also changes?

    Why not create a new concept?

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    This is a fascinating topic and even more dynamic responses. I enjoyed the Kodak chime-in; shows they're monitoring their brand and care about prospective customers.

    I'm troubled, though. I came across this article via a search on “Ready Aim Fire” vs “Ready Fire Aim,” and I wonder why there only have to be two choices. If those traditional terms are what firms have ALWAYS used, isn't now the time – as social media changes the concept of doing business from the accepted traditional to the new – that the strategy also changes?

    Why not create a new concept?

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