Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Marketing from a Web 2.0 core – part 5: the challenge of cost-effectiveness, continued

Posted in Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on December 16, 2010

Earlier this month I posted an installment in Web 2.0 Marketing on the challenge of cost-effectiveness in Web 2.0 and social media marketing, offering that as a fourth in a series on marketing from a Web 2.0 core. I discussed one source of costs in developing effective social media marketing and that area I dealt with in fact applies to any marketing. You need to know your own organization and your ongoing and currently-leading goals and priorities if you are to present them through and represent them with an effective message.

I said at the end of that posting that I would follow up on it with a continuation piece looking at the costs of social media per se, and that is where my focus will be here. I see two areas of potential cost that have to be addressed by essentially any business or organization considering social media marketing:

• The costs of the social media message and its production and distribution per se.
• Costs that may come from organizational change that this would require.

When you market and communicate online through a Web 1.0 and a central publishing model you only have to track what you yourself say, and when and how you do this. In-house writers and editors can manage the workflow involved and the level of work is going to directly correlate with the overall word count generated, and for time and effort, and for any indirect expenses involved. Those indirect expenses would include expenses such as web site hosting, and the list of items on this expense sheet can be longer than initially anticipated, but once you have your system set up and your flow of marketing campaigns going this can become fairly predictable, with overall averages and with seasonal and other peaks and with slower periods. When you move into Web 2.0 and the interactive online experience with social media much of that changes:

• You have to track a wider and an even seemingly open ended source of channels and sites that your business may be drawn into through third party and community-sourced comments and reviews.
• You have to maintain a wider range of online resources coming out of and carrying the official voice of your organization, with its products and services and its mission and vision. This at least potentially takes away some of the fiscal predictability that a simpler central publishing model may allow. Cost control there means being selective where this selectivity can carry its own costs.
• You have to strategically plan and execute with an understanding of ongoing labor costs, and of need for maintaining a steady flow of fresh news to convey. If, for example, you intend to blog you need someone who can write good clean copy on a regular and consistent schedule for posting, and with lengthier postings than you may need for most other social media outlets. This, I add may mean once a week and still work for you. If, on the other hand you use a channel like Twitter you can only add up to 140 characters per tweet (message) as an outer limit supported by the site, but you really need to post at least once every weekday. Here, the price is in having a lot of fresh material to share, and yes there is a perhaps hidden volume-of-writing issue in this too. You will probably have to include links to fuller accounts and more details in your tweets, where that means writing Facebook page events listings, web site content, blog postings or other content that your tweets can direct your Twitter followers to.
• This all brings up uncertainty issues. Do we have enough to say? Who will do this writing and posting, and who will check to see that it is right for this organization before it goes out and shows live to the world? Central publishing oriented writers and editors can play a big role in this and certainly in getting started in social media and interactive online marketing but everyone involved there will face learning curves too.

In a real sense I have already started addressing the costs and uncertainties of potential organizational change in this but I have only started that.

• Yes, this may mean increasing headcount with specific new hires with particular writing and editing skills, and with specific technical skills and experience too.
• This may call for reconsidering some job descriptions for positions already in place and filled. There, retraining and related support of current staff may be all you need, and I add that working with your staff to help them increase their skills so they can work more effectively is one of your strongest employee retention tools too.
• You also have to start thinking of your organization as being a member of a larger community where everyone has a voice that counts. This affects the focus and orientation of mission and vision. This impacts on how people with your organization see their jobs and fulfill them. And this can bring new faces and new job categories into direct and immediate contact with the communities you seek to work with and provide for, from among your staff.

I wrote last time in part four of this series of the need to have a clearly understood mission and vision, with goals and priorities that are commonly understood and shared throughout the organization, for social media marketing to work. Where potentially anyone and everyone in your organization can become a spokesperson through their own social networking if not through your “official” channels this becomes vital. And to add to that point, with viral marketing your customers will in effect be speaking for you too.

Centrally and strategically this means developing a clear understanding of which types of channel and social media tools your organization should reach out through in sharing its core message. This calls for a great deal of flexibility in response too, with listening as clear a message as speaking. This all carries very real potential returns on investment but this carries costs and potential costs too, and it is important to think and plan through both sides of that.

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