IBM’s “The Business of Social Business” report serves as a reminder that whether the media is print, to TV, banner ads, social media or mobile, we need to leverage the unique advantages of each of them. The basic steps we need to take to make social media marketing work are:

  • Create valued customer experiences
  • Drive workforce productivity and effectiveness
  • Accelerate Innovation

 Create Valued Customer Experiences

Social media is a two way conversation. If you only use it to inform or entertain or inform, you are missing the opportunity to take advantage of its unique value as a medium that lets us actually listen to what our customers are saying and to provide them a way to engage with you and your product. Of those who responded to IBM’s survey, 60% said they use social media to respond to customer inquiries.

IBM suggests that you:

  • regularly mine social media conversations as a way of determining customer preferences and marketing trends.
  • Use your communities as mini-focus groups.
  • Locate the influencers in the group and work with them one-on-one. Where they go, others will follow.

Drive Productivity and Effectiveness

Social media can help us get unstuck from the same routine. It takes ongoing thought and effort. One alarming statistic: 70% of business pages aren’t being updated at all. It may take more work than expected, and not provide as much return as hoped, but consistency, creativity and the help of a few key influencers can build your social media platform into an integral and influential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Accelerate Innovation

Accelerating means that, having heard the voice of the customer, you need to also solicit ideas from everyone in the company, and then proceed to try ideas out, see the results, and then adjust your strategy accordingly. The exercise can be revitalizing in itself.

Rather than bother with innovation, too many businesses are just phoning it in. In a recent article, I compare Costco to Wal-Mart. While Wal-Mart takes the easy way out – slashing expenses to increase profits, Costco has been paying its employees better wages and benefits, and has thereby created a more engaged workforce that handily outperforms Wal-Mart’s.

The problem with the Wal-Mart model, aside from the immorality of not working for the benefit of the employee, is that it’s a one-note strategy: squeeze as much money out of as few resources as you can. You can only get so much blood out of a turnip.

Costco is achieving superior business results than Wal-Mart without stooping to the same kind of easy financial fixes.  They are doing so through sound business and marketing practices that are more responsive to the needs of their consumers and their employees, which makes them a more sustainable model for the long run.

Costco owes its success to a strategy that values not just its shareholders, but its employees and consumers. A firm commitment to social is an outreach to your consumers. It builds more not just quick profit, but long term relationships and community. And this is what will differentiate you in the marketplace.