How to Be in the Right 50% of Social Media Marketing Campaigns

by Kat French |

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

About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.