Social Media Marketing

Roland Fiege (Europe): Is Social Media Spoiling Your Day?

Last week Gartner reported that expectations for social media as a commercial and marketing tool are not being met, despite the billions of dollars being poured into it. Social media has turned many established business rules inside out, and CIOs across Europe are caught between wanting to support their businesses’ adoption of this new technology and making sure it keeps going in the right direction

Gartner’s revelations about the commercial challenges of social media follows a string of reports throughout 2011 from organizations as varied as IBM and the CMO council finding that social media isn’t generating an adequate ROI.

But it’s not all bad news. Lessons are being learned by social marketing’s early adopters, not least that successful long-term engagement with an online community requires a great deal more in terms of infrastructure and applications than just posting your latest catalogue on Facebook.

Although there are now over 50 brands whose Facebook pages have generated over a million ‘likes’, social marketers have found that a ‘like’ on its own is of little value, so are now looking to build their own communities through a combination of existing social media channels and dedicated apps for direct interaction.

This can be a headache for the CIO.

Although there are millions of apps that people can use to interact with each other, there are very few that access the Facebook API, which holds the key to unlocking the wealth of data about fans’ preferences.

Developers are frustrated by Facebook’s continual evolution, which leads to changing algorithms, and apps ceasing to work for no apparent reason.

But most of the CIOs we meet are clear in their view that despite these challenges, the best social solution for the business is to create infrastructures and apps that allow customers to interact directly with the business.

At the moment this drive is strongest in the US. Perhaps this is not surprising, because 49 out of the 50 most popular corporate Facebook pages are US brands. But we are starting to see islands of interest in developing corporate social apps across Europe.

From an infrastructure perspective the implications are substantial. One key benefit in IS terms, is that it moves data control back into the hands of the IS department. Applications will be subject to the proper scrutiny of technical evaluation, robustness and fitness for purpose. But this is also where the corporate Achilles’ heel starts to show.

Social by its nature is fast-moving and continually evolving. Social doesn’t happen in campaign periods or quarters, it happens in real time. It doesn’t allow the luxury of development environments, stress testing and PRINCE reporting, but wants results in hours rather than months.

This approach sits at odds with the conventional IS wisdom, and is particularly hard to reconcile for those CIOs working in countries that are behind the curve of social media uptake.

In the UK and the Netherlands, where over 75% of the population are online, social media adoption has been dramatic, and there is strong pressure on companies to get on board and follow the US model.

By contrast, many German companies, where fewer than a third of the citizens engage actively with social media, are choosing to hold back and learn from the mistakes of others.

But despite regional differences there is a strong consensus emerging that the infrastructure demands for successful social marketing are very different from those of a traditional ERP environment, but have to be compatible.

There is a lot of discussion, particularly among the later adopters who are keen to benefit from best practice, about the benefits of devolving infrastructures to share data between existing infrastructures and cloud-based apps.

MicroStrategy is a strong supporter of cloud and has invested heavily in building its own cloud infrastructure. We recognize the attractions of ease of deployment and avoiding the need for capital outlay, and we also firmly believe that for the social project to succeed cloud apps and corporate Infrastructures must integrate seamlessly.

By Roland Fiege, Director of Social Marketing at MicroStrategy Inc. based in Köln


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