Small firms still struggle to solve social media puzzle

Social media analytics are some of the most powerful business tools ever developed, but many companies still aren’t using them effectively, panelists told a Toronto digital media conference on Tuesday.
Social media analytics can givebusinesses more detailed data than ever before about who theircustomers are, how engaged they are with products, brands, andmarketing messages, and how to craft and target future messages moreeffectively, said Rachel Noonan, moderator of the panel at X-Summit,a cross-media conference on creating and delivering digital content viaplatforms such as television, radio, Internet, print, video games and film.

“Years ago people opened up a magazine and said ‘Okay, 2.5 millionpeople read this.’ Now it’s all in real time and now you know if userslike something (specific), if they’re engaged,” said Noonan, directorof social media at the Toronto office of global interactive marketingfirm OgilvyOne.

The specific metrics measured by social media analytics haveessentially allowed companies to shift their marketing target fromquantity to quality.

“Traditional (media targets) all the eyeballs. Social (media) is about‘Do we have the right eyeballs?’” said panelist Maggie Fox, CEO ofToronto-based Social Media Group, which hassteered social media campaigns for 3M Co., SAP AG and Ford MotorCompany.

Despite the availability of such detailed customer data, most companiesare still grappling with how to use that real time informationstrategically to improve their products or overall customer experience,the panelists said. That’s because many firms aren’t sure whichdepartment should be responsible for social media within theirorganization: marketing, public relations or customer service?

“There’s the silo of marketing and the silo of P.R.,” added Fox.“That’s where social media sits (at most companies), in between thetwo, and you have to make them work together.”
A newer trend described by Noonan is the use of social media analyticson integrated ad teams (IATs). The approach marries new media experts(think analytics, mobile marketing, game development, CRM and social media types) with traditional advertising, marketing and research people to craft corporate messages together. The marriage can sometimes be rocky, however.
“The IATs are in transition and everybody’s fighting for that piece (ofthe marketing pie),” Noonan said.

“Try getting the print (ad) guy to understand what the mobile(marketing) guy needs,” Fox challenged the audience.

Another stumbling block at many companies is having the sheer manpowerto deal with social media, especially when global economic uncertaintyis persuading businesses to keep a tight rein on hiring.

“(Businesses) struggle less on the technology. It’s the resourcing,”said panelist Rob Begg, senior director of product marketing at Radian6, a Fredericton, media metrics firm acquired by last year in adeal worth $326 million.

When it comes to harnessing social media analytics, a key weakness atmany companies is mindset, not money, Fox said. Most businesses onlysee social media analytics as a tool for message output (ie, marketing)instead of one for gathering valuable customer input, she said. Ifcompanies used social media metrics to listen to customers and createbetter products and services based on that feedback, it wouldultimately help them compose marketing messages that are more effectivetoo, she said.

“It’s hard to re-architect organizations for input. It’s all (been)output,” Fox said.

“Taking (social media metrics) and scaling it beyond marketing itreally tough,” Begg agreed. “But keep in mind this is still reallyearly stages,” he said, since social media itself is still less than adecade old.

Christine WongChristineWong is a Staff Writer at Follow her on Twitter,and join in the conversation on the IT BusinessFacebook Page.

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Christine Wong
Christine Wong
Christine Wong has been an on-air reporter for a national daily show on Rogers TV and at High Tech TV, a weekly news magazine on CTV's Ottawa affiliate. She was also an associate producer at Report On Business Television (now called BNN) and CBC's The Hour With George Stroumboulopoulos. As an associate producer at Slice TV, she helped launch two national daily talk shows, The Mom Show and Three Takes. Recently, she was a Staff Writer at and is now a freelance contributor.

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