Jill Dyché in her Information Management Blog “The 4 Es of Social Media Strategy” contests that companies

are pretty vague about the drivers for the new “Social Media”initiative.

Apart from the usual platitudes of “getting closer to employees, partners, and customers via lower-cost channels” it turns out very few business leaders can answer my question about the desired outcome of social media analytics.
In our experience, there needs to be at least one prevalent driver for social media.

She calls these the “4 Es of Social Media Strategy.”

There are already some great examples of companies that have zeroed in on one of these areas used it as a foundation for other drivers. For instance, J.C. Penney offers its Facebook fans—now over half a million strong—unique deals and discounts, clearly leveraging the social media channel to Engage a younger demographic of apparel customers. Earlier this year the retailer leaked its Oscar ads on Facebook before the show aired, mixing a little Entertain with a lot of Expose.
Indeed, many on-line retailers remind shoppers about shipping rates and return policies on their websites and through their blogs. But web strategist Jeremiah Owyang wrote this week about how Levi uses social media to Educate shoppers to “like” a product and to tell their friends about it.
Del Monte has leveraged the power of social networking with its “I Love My Dog” community, in which dog lovers can interact with the company and with each other. Del Monte gets 40 percent of its revenues through pet products (Snausages, anyone?). Who knew?

And that’s the point. Del Monte has gone from Expose as its primary driver—ensuring that pet owners ($2 billion a year strong) know about its various brands—and moved to Engage as its workaday model. The packaged goods company enlists its ready-made social community in surveys—using it to test marketing campaigns and get feedback on new product ideas—and occasionally moving over to Educate when it comes to product ingredients. In the meantime Del Monte is collecting information that can inform new campaigns and product ideas.
Over time your company’s social media strategy can incorporate each of the 4 Es, but there is usually a single prevailing need that will likely justify the initial effort, and provide the foundational platform and skill sets for subsequent social media activities. The key is to avoid making social media a “research project” or, as a Chief Marketing Officer pronounced it recently, “an intellectual exercise with no tangible benefits.” In a word, Ouch!

Being Authentic in the Social Media

The increasing use of social media amongst businesses reflects the fact that social media is important. But realizing value from its use requires the right type of use.

Here are a few tips for being authentic and maintaining authenticity with business social media use.

Make it personal.

Identity matters online. Which is why companies shouldn’t build a faceless social media presence. At a very minimum, business social media profiles should be associated with a real person who has some level of autonomy and the ability to make his or her personality part of the show.

Don’t be afraid of opinion.

A big part of ‘keeping it real‘ that deserves individual attention is the fear of opinion that often exists amongst businesses. It’s my belief, however, that one of the big reasons consumers don’t trust companies is that companies often strive so hard to be ‘PC’ that they lose a sense of culture and personality. Instead of representing something, they end up representing nothing. Frankly, there’s nothing worse from a branding perspective.
When it comes to social media, companies and their social media managers shouldn’t be afraid to express an opinion (or two or three). Obviously, opinions have consequences. So ‘speak first, think later‘ isn’t an advisable approach. But ‘speak, say nothing‘ is something that should be avoided at all costs as well, as it negates whatever potential social media has to help your business build relationships with consumers.

Focus on interactions, not followers and fans.

Many businesses have an unhealthy focus on the number of followers and fans they acquire on sites like Twitter and Facebook. To a certain extent, it makes sense: the number of followers or fans you have is an easy metric for assessing ‘success‘.
But a sizable following doesn’t necessarily equate to influence or results. Which is why businesses using social media should focus more on using social media to facilitate quality interactions. This is far more likely to produce meaningful action on the part of a consumer, and will likely have a greater impact on the perceptions of the silent majority (read: the many consumers who watch, but don’t participate).

Keep the distribution of traditional marketing messages to a minimum.

Social media may or may not be a cheap way to distribute your traditional marketing messages, but if that’s all you use it for, it defeats the purpose. So many consumers shun traditional marketing for a reason.
If your social media presence is merely a platform for promoting press releases, promotions, etc., it will be much harder to attract attention, spark meaningful interactions and create the warm, fuzzy feelings amongst consumers that you’re hoping to elicit. In other words, if your Twitter or Facebook account is an extension of your RSS feed, you’re missing the point.

Jill also blogs at JillDyche.com.