Social strategist Altimeter Group has published an overview of enterprise-level social programs in 2013, outlining the results of the company's annual survey of digital strategists.
Coupled with targeted quotes from inside large enterprises, here are some salient points for those working in social media programs within a large corporation.
C-level support is essential
With reported budgets remaining essentially unchanged in 2013, the key here for social media evangelists seeking more support lies with C-level executives. By finding an advocate higher up, there's more chance of not only being allocating the necessary resources for success but also a more clear alignment with the company's overall business objectives vis a vis social platforms.
While this clearly applies to those seeking to implement new programs, those with more established programs must reevaluate their support network annually (at the very least) to ensure support at the highest level. Here's how the average age of programs breaks down:
Those with programs what have been established should look to metrics as means of garnering continued support for social media investments. By demonstrating specifics about how the social initiatives have built, enhanced, and/or preserved the business, the social manager is poised to garner more internal cross-organizational support for those efforts.
These sorts of initiatives should be thriving in travel companies - there are easily many ways for social to boost corporate objectives, and the time for excuses has long ago passed.
Yet, as respondents themselves pointed out, only 50% of executives were aligned or informed about how the social strategy plays out in their company.
This is the fault of the social managers - get in front of executives however possible and work towards their complete understanding. Many will be skeptical, so it's vital to develop varying approaches here to reflect the different personalities populating the organization.
Executives must also step up and take it upon themselves to learn more about the social strands - especially related to risk management, aligning business objectives, and clearly delineated responsibilities of those running social. The social space is ripe for controversy, and can easily cause problems if executives are not aware and work to stay in the loop.
This also includes setting up a governance model before moving on to strategy and development - know the rules, define the boundaries, and set up appropriate oversight. There are also different structures, which can provide value for different company types.
Here's the way the surveyed companies are structured:
In travel, the top-down model is increasingly ineffective as social is a ripe means of engagement with customers. Travel organizations must consider how social can be woven into every department, to allow for nuanced approaches to customer needs and means of engagement.
Speaking of metrics - metrics!
Alignment with a division's business goals is essential to successful enterprise-level social. If the social program is company-wide, then be sure to take annual stock of the social landscape to ensure that the social path is following the company path closely. That doesn't mean they are identical; the strategy should simply support the stated business objectives, as that will weave the social business into the fabric of the company's own business.
By defining success and continually iterating, the strategy can lead to a constant refresh of priorities. As evidenced by the consolidation of user accounts across surveyed companies, it's important to take stock regularly of what's working and what's bloated:
Metrics should be pre-determined prior to launching any new social initiatives, and each internal social position should also have their own set of evolving metrics. The keyword is evolving: be sure to revisit these metrics as appropriate for each initiative and company culture - this landscape shifts quickly, and requires investment in taking and analyzing metrics.
Metrics are still challenging social media strategists, as this result shows that the majority still were not prioritizing metric creation:
The top three areas where respondents were able to create and track metrics were marketing optimization, customer experience, and brand health. Metrics are also still proving challenging for certain areas, such as actual revenue generation, operational efficiency and innovation.
These first two are rapidly being addressed, as Twitter recently announced conversion tracking while Facebook has been offering ways to tie in social actions to specific metrics for awhile now.
It's also surprisingly that savings in customer service are not easy-to-track, given the clear-cut ability to measure the number of customers served per hour across call centers versus social media.
Content marketing is a key function of social investment
Travel is inherently visual - it's been said often and should be said again that travel brands have an ever-present opportunity to leverage the "dream factor" of the product being sold for solid social engagement.
Indeed, "content marketing" was not even on the radar back in 2010 - and now it is the number one external priority when it comes to social media for the surveyed companies. Of course, this means that travel brands must step up and actually create compelling content that resonated with travelers, and increases overall engagement.
This content should be tied into conversion metrics, so that it can be measured.
One example of the development of something along those lines is Expedia's Scratchpad, which automatically saves what users are searching and viewing on the site. It's not a departure to envision the auto-saving of consumed content, allowing for travelers to learn when a promotion, special deal, or bargain fare is available for a hotel or destination that they read about on site.
By tying content to conversion - you read it so now go there and here's where to book - there are plenty of opportunities for increased business for travel brands. This requires investment, measurement and iterative development, no small feat but wholly worth it as a long-term strategy that prioritizes content and social dissemination to fulfill business objectives.
There's still a lot of work to be done in 2014 and beyond, as far as integrating enterprise-level social. The trends will continue towards education, training and testing in the coming year, because, as social matures at the unit-level, it must be codified and systemized to maintain its place at the table.
The full slideshow on 2013 can be viewed here, including more about how the majority of companies lack risk management and all-employee training regarding social media policies.
NB: Chatter mouth image courtesy Shutterstock.