Look, I get it. You’re a numbers person, you have serious work to get done and you’re not about to waste precious time thinking about social media. Leave that fluff to the Gen Z interns. In fact, finance leaders in particular have been conditioned to believe that social media doesn’t matter for them or their teams.
What, you’re going to tweet out last quarter’s EBIT?
Clearly not. But it is your job to track bang for the advertising buck, burnish your reputation with investors and protect the value of your brand. And social media return is even more important when corporate events, sales meetings and other face-to-face communications are on hold, whether due to the current COVID-19 crisis, budget restrictions or other unforeseen circumstances. The time to build a strong virtual community is before you need it.
In my experience, social media, long the bastion of marketing, is becoming a focus for growing companies’ executive leaders, because they know that customers, employees and potential investors are watching: 72% percent of adults use social media, including 55% of people over the age of 60. In fact, those over 55 are the fastest growing category of users. Sure, for many, the main activity is streaming cat videos. But positive and negative messages about your brand are getting out into the social ether.
Let’s dig into other reasons to care about your organization's social voice and ways CFOs can be a positive force for their organizations. I like to frame it as the “Big 3 of Social Value Building.”
Let’s start with Profits. Firms that leverage social media correctly as part of a holistic brand awareness strategy boost their bottom lines by connecting with new customers, enhancing relationships with current clients, lowering their marketing costs and improving customer service. Those that don’t could end up on the next annual list of top social media fails.
There is investment required. Those social ads you see pop up aren’t free. But, done with a little finesse, they’re often less expensive and more effective than traditional advertising channels.
Social can also save money on customer service teams and contact centers. One great use of social, especially Twitter, is first-line problem resolution. A representative engaging with customers in the equivalent of an online chat is much less expensive than handling a voice call. In some cases, other social users will post content and solve problems for zero cost while your services team addresses more involved customer issues.
A flip side of the profit motive is that 88% of investors say they make decisions on which companies to invest in based on digital resources, according to Brunswick’s 2019 Digital Investor Survey. Besides blogs, websites and media articles, 63% of investors polled use LinkedIn as a platform for research, 55% use Twitter, 43% use YouTube and 23% use Facebook.
Investor relations pros know that effective social-channel communication is a big part of maximizing company value and realizing financing goals.
People, your teams and customers, now define your brand. In fact, what I feel should be the most existential concern for business leaders is that social media has largely taken control of brand identities away from marketing teams and given it to your community — employees and customers, happy ones and detractors alike.
Your customers trust one another far more than they trust your company; in fact, trust in companies is at an all-time low. Just one in three respondents to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer study said that they trust most of the brands whose goods and services they buy and use.
Keys to building trust include unlocking customer and employee advocacy and combining that content with smart, paid placements. If you can do that, you have a powerful tool for both your talent issue internally and your ability to attract and retain customers. Brands with a strong social media presence are better able to weather the storm of a PR disaster because they have established relationships in the digital world.
But those relationships need to be genuine. Take a look at what your marketing team is doing. Are they shouting about your products and services and turning customers off, or do you have real, meaningful content to share? Do you thoughtfully communicate and engage with customers and employees, or is your social media plan more of a rubber stamp? Do you use social just to drive traffic or leads, or does your brand have a distinct personality, voice and narrative that flows across platforms?
Social is extremely measurable, but first the people who manage your social media must do something that can be measured. Metrics exist that can answer the, “Are we making or saving money with this?” question, but too often leaders expect there to be a magical “master social measurement” button. There isn’t, just as there’s no such button for radio, TV, billboards or fancy business cards. Challenge marketing teams to set meaningful metrics and measure against them consistently.
Each story, ad, follower, blog post and email is an opportunity for customers to convert. Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, social media is a very effective tool for gaining new leads and moving people through your sales funnel. Do spot checks on your Google Ad spending. Ask for tracking on URLs and regular reports on your purchase funnel, unified customer databases, influence scores and customer retention metrics.
You will need to invest in a social analytics tool and or a broader marketing management suite like Hootsuite, Mention or Zoho Social — but I’d argue you should have one of these anyway. The only thing worse than being called out by a disgruntled customer with lots of LinkedIn connections or Twitter followers is not knowing you were tagged.
Finally, one last way to add value: CFOs and other executives should consider making personal contributions rather than standing on the sidelines and leaving interactions to the marketing team. There are big-name executives who have rich communities on LinkedIn. Sure, they have help from marketing, but the best ones make sure their personalities come through.
Listen, learn and engage on social media platforms. Share insights, and provide feedback on others’ content. Be authentic, and your peers, employees and customers will respond.
It is time to be engaged and visible on social media platforms that benefit your business. If you are not sure how to get started feel free to drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me at @ashlynszilva
Dr. Ashlyn Szilva is group director of research and digital for JS Group, where she applies her unique experience in research methods, analytics and photography to social media and marketing innovation. She manages the social media influence and social selling strategy for over a dozen technology firms big and small and is well known for her ability to create influencers in a digital normal. Her credo is, “If it isn’t shareable, it isn’t real in the digital age.” Szilva earned her master’s degree and doctorate from Drew University.