How is Social Media Relevant to Business?

This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, and Why Social Media?

Motrin Moms Controversy

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Some rights reserved by Todd Barnard

“We now have indisputable proof that online marketing,
YouTube and Twitter and all that it encompasses
is meaningful and has arrived.
We are seeing real consequences to a mistake.
If [social networks] didn’t matter, you wouldn’t
see this type of reaction from J&J or consumers
[over the Motrin Mom faux pas].”

Gene Grabowski, chair
crisis and litigation practice,
Levick Strategic Communications

Grabowski is referring to one of the entries in our Social Media Hall of Shame.[1] That entry reads as follows:

In fall of 2008, pain reliever brand Motrin posted a short video as part of an ad campaign aimed at young mothers. In an attempt to identify with its intended audience, the ad featured a young woman speaking in an irreverent tone about the “fashion” of wearing one’s baby, and the back pain associated with the practice.

Some online moms found the tone patronizing and felt they were being mocked. The video went largely unnoticed for 45 days, but then on Saturday, November 15, one mother, Jessica Gottlieb, tweeted her disapproval using the Twitter hashtag[2] #motrinmoms.

By Sunday afternoon, #motrinmoms was one of the hottest hashtags on Twitter. Mommy Blogger Katja Presnal created a nine-minute YouTube video comprised of angry tweets from moms with baby carriers.[3]In all, however, fewer than 1,000 people posted using the hashtag. But this was a very vocal minority.

By social media standards, Motrin was slow to respond to the outcry. Yet by Sunday evening, they pulled the campaign, temporarily shuttered their Website, and apologized. Instead of engaging with the protestors on their own turf, however, Motrin reverted to an Old Media response: They tried to remove all traces of the video and ad campaign and offered a corporate apology in response: “We have taken immediate action to respond to these concerns and have removed the advertisement from our Web site.”

By November 20th, they had pulled themselves together a bit more, and published a response with a much better tone. Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, offered a new apology that followed our mandate: Be a Person.

So…it’s been almost 4 days since I apologized here for our Motrin advertising. What an unbelievable 4 days it’s been. Believe me when I say we’ve been taking our own headache medicine here lately! We are parents ourselves and we take feedback from moms very seriously. [4]

Much, much, much better!

Motrin’s mistake was in not using the negative attention to engage in a dialog with the angered moms. By taking them seriously and listening to their concerns, Motrin could have probably defused the uproar and possibly turned the furor into an advantage. Engaging in a dialog would have enabled Motrin to explain that they were trying to be funny, and they were sorry that hadn’t worked.

Ironically, Jessica Gottlieb, author of the original tweet, said that she felt the ad did not need to be pulled. What if Motrin had originally addressed her directly and enlisted her help?

We can learn two things from this object lesson:

  • Social media can bring a powerful company to its knees in the space of less than a week
  • With great power comes great responsibility[5]

We don’t tell this tale to scare you, but rather to impress upon you the power and potential of this new communications medium. We also hope Motrin’s story demonstrates that using social media without a strategy and a plan may seem easy to do, but like juggling chainsaws, the outcome is much better when you’re trained and prepared.

Plenty of enterprises have produced great results through the use of social media. We’ve written this book to help you become one of them.

On the positive side of social media, take a look at the Blendtec YouTube videos,[6] one of the keystone case studies from our Enterprise Social Media Framework (ESMF).[7]

Blendtec makes powerful blenders, and so someone got the bright idea of doing a series of short videos called Will it Blend? Starting way back in 2006, and featuring Blendtec CEO Tom Dickson, each video – designated either “Try this at home” or “Don’t try this at home” – blends a range of items from 50 marbles and a handful of golf balls to a new iPhone.

It was the iPhone blend video that went viral, racking up more than 9.8 million views, and counting. Combining the fetish power of the game-changing mobile phone with the eccentric idea of obliterating things with a blender equated to tremen­dous viralocity. Since the first iPhone bit it, the company has trashed a series of iconic electronic gadgets, including an Olympus digital camera, an iPad (11 million views), and an iPhone 4.

Was it planned this way? No. It was just a wacky- and cheap- bid for attention from a small company with a small marketing budget. It went viral because . . . well, just because it was bizarre, over the top, and cool, we guess. For almost no money, Blendtec has reaped more than 161 million YouTube views, 380,000 subscribers (making it #40 on YouTube’s all-time list), and a 7X increase in sales.

So why do we mention this? Did you see the part about “almost no money?”

You could go viral as well. But to do so, you must be hooked into the zeitgeist[8] of your community, and the larger society. Offbeat, quirky ideas are what generally go viral. But if you try too hard (we’re looking at you, LonelyGirl15 [9]) you could do more damage than good.

Contrast BlendTec’s success with the fact that the #3 result from a search on YouTube for Comcast is a video called A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch.[10]

(There’s more about going viral in the section Aim to Influence .)

Talk about incredible results, both good and bad! Social media is here, it works for enterprises, and chances are good it is affecting your business today.

Social Media and Your Business

Now you may be thinking, “That’s great and all, but my enterprise sells to businesses (or sells services, or is in a reg­ulat­ed industry, or . . . ), and I can’t see how funny YouTube videos will help me sell my product.”

You’re not alone in being skeptical about the potential effect of social media on your business. But more and more businesses of all sizes are starting to embrace it.

Frost & Sullivan GraphA 2011 Frost and Sullivan study[11] (see Figure 3) showed that of 200 C-level execs, 69 percent were closely tracking social media. That’s amazing in and of itself, but executive interest in social media was greater than interest in other important technology trends, such as telepresence, VOIP, shared team spaces, soft phones, and even unified communications and unified mess­aging. Half of the respondents said social media is already used within their organization, and 41 percent said they were using the tech­nology personally.

Social media expert Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research, writing for the Harvard Business Review,[12] divides large enterprises’ use of social media into four groups:

  • Dormant – Fewer than one in five large companies are in this group. They haven’t really gotten started with social media.
  • Testing – About one third of enterprises are just starting out. They usually begin with listening (monitoring social chatter) and talking on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Coordinating – Another third of large companies have moved on to coordinating multiple social efforts around the company. Bernoff recommends, and we definitely agree, that the right strategy is not to put all the social efforts under one manager. He recommends appointing “shepherds” to help lead social media across teams in marketing, customer support, HR, and IT.
  • Mastering– The remainder of companies, the smallest group, have mastered social media use. They face challenges in scaling and optimizing social efforts.Bernoff points to Dell as a leader. Manish Mehta is Dell’s VP, Social Media & Community. Just having an executive position with a name like that indicates how seriously Dell takes social media.Bernoff says Mehta “has a weekly teleconference with managers throughout the organization who are responsible for the hundreds of social applications the company deploys, from the Twitter feed @DellOutlet that promotes overstock computers to IdeaStorm, the online community that solicits ideas for new Dell products. Coordinating measurement is also key: at financial services company USAA, for example, social media managers have proven that ratings and reviews generate a 17% increase in clickthroughs to product purchase pages.”

So it’s early days, but despite that, many enterprises have seen real benefits from engaging with social media.

But it’s not all about sales and marketing, as you can see from the preceding. In fact, we believe that sales and marketing are not even the most impressive things social media does. Savvy businesses use social media to:

  • Track what customers and prospects are saying , what they’re interested in, and how they buy
  • Create flash focus groups online to get real-time, real-world feedback on customer likes and dislikes
  • Recruit new talent – many companies are turning away from posting job requisitions to searching social networks like LinkedIn and inviting highly-qualified people to apply
  • Increase employee engagement , satisfaction, and retention – McKinsey and MIT surveys found between 7 percent and 20 percent improvement in employee retention due to social networks[13]

If that’s all social computing could do for your business, would­n’t that be enough?

Our contention that most businesses miss the real point and much of the potential of social media is supported by a recent white paper published by the Harvard Business Review.[14] HBR did a survey of 2,100 companies, and these were some of their findings:

Despite the vast potential social media brings, many companies seem focused on social media activity pri­marily as a one-way promotional channel, and have yet to capitalize on the ability to not only listen to, but analyze, consumer conversations and turn the infor­mation into insights that impact the bottom line.

For instance:

  • Three-quarters (75%) of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them
  • Nearly one-third (31%) do not measure ef­fective­ness of social media
  • Less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools
  • A fraction (7%) of participating companies are able to integrate social media into their mar­keting activities

Only a small group – 12 percent – of the companies in the survey said they felt they were currently effective users of social media. These were the com­panies most likely to deploy multiple channels, use metrics, have a strategy for social media use, and integrate their social media into their overall marketing operations.

By using this book in your organization, you can learn how to become part of the suc­cessful 12 percent.

Let’s Face It

They’re talking about you online (if you’re lucky).

That’s right, there are probably people talking about your business online right now, via social media. What are they saying? Are they supporters or detractors? Shouldn’t you listen to find out?

What are people who are interested in your business talking about online?

Of course, it varies depending on the business you’re in, but you can count on the chatter being both positive and negative, just like offline conversations about you. The difference is, you can join in on these conversations and possibly influence them.

Regardless of what people are saying about you, shouldn’t you be aware of the online conversations? What if Motrin had ignored what the Mommy Bloggers were saying? What if people are right now, this very minute, spreading mis­in­formation or rumors about your company on Facebook?

Wouldn’t you want to know?

Social media changes the way cheers and raspberries are distributed. Two of our favorite quotes about how much social media changes positive and negative conversations come from trailblazing broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and Paul Gillin, author of The New Influencers.

The fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or un­der­standing than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.
– Edward R. Murrow[15]

Conventional marketing wisdom long held that a dissatisfied customer tells ten people. But…in the new age of social media, he or she has the tools to tell ten million.
– Paul Gillin[16]

Social media hasn’t changed people, just as Murrow says; it has amplified their voices far beyond what Murrow could have imagined in 1958, to the point that mass media is accessible to the average person, as Gillin’s quote demonstrates.

OK, OK, social media is the next big thing. How can you start to take advantage of it?

Well, one thing you shouldn’t do is go off into this new land of social media without a map. You need to channel social media’s power to support your business’s strategy. To harness the power of Social Media, you need a strategy, and a plan.

So What’s Your Strategy?

Like anything that’s worth doing well, it’s best to have a strategy for using social media. You may be tempted to listen to those in your business who have a “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!” kind of mentality regarding social media. It’s so easy to get started, you may decide to listen to these folks and start creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or a YouTube channel right away.

We hope you will resist the temptation to jump in with both feet until you have understood why you are using social media, and how it is going to support your overall strategy.

To maximize social media benefit, you need to align your busi­ness’s strategy with both your external and internal social media strategy.

The difficulty in writing a book about social media and busi­ness is that there are so many kinds of enterprises, each with unique missions and goals. We could give advice for a medical device manufacturer, for example, which may not be approp­riate for grocery distributor. On the other hand, most busi­nesses face similar challenges such as selling, marketing, re­cruit­ing and retaining employees, gaining brand recognition, and so on.

Thus you will need to take the general principles in this book and apply them to your own enterprise. Without working close­ly with you, we can’t identify for you the best social media goals, strategies, sites, and techniques for your business. Only you can do that, and you should use your overall mission, strategy, and goals to determine your social media strategy.

There’s more detail later about creating strategies. First, we’d like to lay out the general concepts, and get more specific in the chapter Create Social Computing Strategies on page 75.

A good social media strategy:

  • Effectively communicates goals and benefits of social media internally and externally
  • Guides selection of the right tools to use
  • Ensures sustainability of your social media endeavor
  • Involves regular reviews of people, processes, and tools to ensure that your business stays relevant

The first step is to review your business’s goals and strategy. Identify the most important, and start to think how social media can help, especially in ways other than sales and marketing. Make whatever changes necessary to your strategy to bring it up to date and ensure that all stakeholders support it before taking a look at social media.

Plan an Internal Social Media Strategy

It may be easier for you to start by focusing on creating an internal social media strategy. It’s less scary, and you might have an easier time coming to agreement on the internal strategy. Some internal goals to think about include:

  • Empower employees to advocate
  • Improve employee engagement and retention
  • Encourage collaboration , innovation, problem solving
  • Improve communications
  • Manage risk to your reputation
  • Improve your hiring process
  • Improve your market research and competitive intelligence

We elaborate more on this concept in the Create an Internal Social Computing Strategy section on page 79.

There’s more information about engagement, advocacy, and evangelism in the sections Engage Your Community, Find and Create Online Evangelists, and Create Buzz.

Plan an External Social Media Strategy

Once you understand how social media can support your business’s overall strategy, it’s time to create your external social media strategy.

You need to go where your community is. Identify constituent groups to target – prospects, customers, influencers, evan­gelists, opinion leaders – and find out if they use social media. Delve into specifics. Are they reading any particular blogs? Are they on Twitter? Facebook? Find your community and study them to see what their concerns are. We examine this process in depth in the section Find Your Community.

Base your strategy on what you find through this research. If your target group is on Facebook, you may want to set up a business page. If your community tweets, you may want to set up a program of daily updates on Twitter.

If you haphazardly approach this task, you can spin your wheels without gain. No one will hear your message. Be sure to tie your implementation ideas directly to your external social media goals.

External goals to consider include:

  • Educate
  • Inspire to action
  • Create strong relationships
  • Share internal culture with external audience
  • Thought leadership
  • Community involvement
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Publicity

We elaborate on this task in the section Create an External Social Computing Strategy on page 82.

Create a Social Media Mission Statement

After reviewing your goals and strategy and creating drafts of your internal and social media strategies, create a mission statement for your social media efforts. This needs to be one sentence that everyone in your business can recite from memory. Doing so will help sharpen your thinking about your strategies and guide the creation of plans to support your social media goals.

Here are some examples of social media mission statements you can learn from.

“Our mission is to drive forward the adoption of social media across Europe in order to improve the quality, access, value and effectiveness of healthcare delivery to patients.”

– Health Care and Social Media in Europe

This is an easy one to get started with. This non-profit exists to spread usage of social media. But notice that they directly tie this social media goal to a specific non-social-media goal: “to improve the quality, access, value and effectiveness of health­care delivery to patients.” In other words, the organization doesn’t just want to spread social media usage for its own sake; it wants to do so to achieve a real-world goal.

A great example of a very short and to-the-point mission state­ment is Ford’s:

“Humanize the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with Ford employees.”

– Scott Monty, Ford Motor Co.

You may have noticed that we don’t even mention social media in the main title of our book, and this is intentional. The challenge for any business in the age of social media is to Be a Person, not a faceless entity. Scott Monty gets this. Ford wants to Be a Person – to humanize their brand, and connect with their community: their customers. So they put this in their social media mission statement. How can you get this concept into your statement?

Here’s another statement that explicitly states what kind of person the business wants to be:

“Instill trust in the brand, and highlight that the people behind the brand are parents too.”

– Lindsay Lebresco, Graco

Brilliant! Our employees are parents too; they can relate to you and your problems; they can create products that connect with your needs, because they share your needs. Wow.

Of course, delivering on your mission statement is the trick, isn’t it?

Here’s a general template to get you started on your social media mission statement:

“The purpose of our social media efforts is to [do something] for [someone] while [improving, furthering] our [ business strategic objective].”

Play with it until you think you’ve got it, and then get your staff involved in fine-tuning your statement.

Create Social Media Metrics

A strategy needs goals, and goals need measurement. Ensure that your social media goals can be measured. There’s lots more about measurement in the section Measure Results, but for right now, you should think about real, concrete goals that are measurable.

We also talk much more about measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) of social media in the section Measuring Social Media, Influence, Brand, but here’s a quick table of some of the things you can measure with social media:

Table 1 – Social Media Measurements

Blog posts Google trends
Reader comments Search results
Twitter mentions Inbound traffic
Twitter followers Video views
Facebook fans SlideShare views
Links Tags
RSS subscribers Diggs

Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand what some of these elements are at this point. Most will become clear throughout the rest of the book.

Determine Who is Responsible

When creating your social media strategies, you should consider who in your business is going to be responsible for social media activities. We can’t really do this for you, but here are some suggestions:

  • Please don’t just make it just marketing or public relations staff!
  • Please don’t make it just one person!
  • How about anyone who touches clients?
  • How about your leadership?

Determine How Your Clients Will Benefit

If you can’t quantify this, you need to rethink your whole strategy. If the answer is truly that you see no benefit for external stakeholders, that’s OK. Just be sure you understand that social media only provides internal benefits for your business. As we’ve discussed, those benefits can be enough.

Plan to Evolve Your Strategy

Accept that you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to learn what works and what doesn’t, and so you need to figure out how you are going to incorporate continuous improve­ment into your social media strategy and practice. One important element of improvement is to be open to innovation from your staff. Chances are good many have significant experience in social media and can help suggest improve­ments.

Up Next: First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy

Can’t wait for all the chapters? Buy Be a Person: The Enterprise Social Operating Manual and save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV .

[1] Social Media Performance Group’s Social Media Hall of Shame:

[2] See the definition for hashtag on page 12.

[3] The video Motrin Ad Makes Moms Mad:

[4] Read more about the Motrin debacle at

[5] Spider-Man:

[6] Blendtec’s YouTube channel:

[7] Enterprise Social Media Framework:

[8] Google zeitgeist:

[9] LonelyGirl15’s YouTube channel:

[10] A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch:

[11] Frost & Sullivan report:

[12] Harvard Business Review:

[13] Allyis blog: and McKinsey:

[14] Harvard Business Review, “The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action”

[15] Edward R. Murrow at the RTNDA Convention (Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation) in Chicago on October 15, 1958.

[16] Harvard Business Review, “The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action”