January 9, 2012
The 4 Questions: Social Media and a Strategic Plan
A January 1st, 2012 article in the New York Times discussed the four questions that IBM’s outgoing president, Samuel J. Palmisano, developed and strongly adhered to during his highly successful tenure. These four questions (quoted below from the article), are very applicable to almost every business.
• Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?
• Why would somebody work for you?
• Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?
• And why would somebody invest their money with you?
They are also extremely relevant to social media which, to be successful in this highly competitive marketplace, requires a top-down approach and implementation of a strategic plan.
Although almost all companies have entered the online and social media space in one form or another, much of the adoption of social media has been haphazard. According to a January 5, 2012 Altimeter study of 144 large companies, only 43% of them reported having “a formalized strategy road map that addresses how social will meet specific business goals”. This is in direct contrast to the specific four question approach successfully utilized by IBM.
I recently spoke with a rapidly growing software developer who discussed this point at length. Their answer – when distilled to a few words was essentially, “we’re up on the latest software developments and frankly, we do better work than our competitors – and we can prove it”.
The proof comes from the results of their work along with client testimonials. So, to address the second question, people would work for you because of foresight, utilization of key technologies (when applicable), the quality of your work and demonstrable results – which would also make companies more inclined to hire your company. All of these accomplishments should be highly touted by social media.
Testimonials and word-of-mouth referrals are two of the most effective means of generating attention and business in social media. Their avid discussion and presence can generate enormous buzz, opportunities and sales. It is rumored that Google will – yet again – be modifying their search algorithm this spring to further emphasize these topics of communication.
One of the hottest areas of social media involves geography. Tools and platforms now provide added emphasis on local services. Both Google and Yahoo are actively promoting their local listing and advertising services. For many businesses, these have proved to be both cost-effective and successful. Interestingly, the geographic capabilities of mobile devices and such popular location services sites such as Foursquare, Yelp and Gowalla (which will be shut down by Facebook later this year) – particularly those utilizing mobile apps – have not been successful in penetrating mainstream usage despite a huge amount of press coverage. A recent Forrester Study depicted only a 5% penetration rate in which people use location apps more than once per month, up only slightly from 4% in 2010.
Since most businesses are not huge publicly held companies such as IBM, its final question could be rewritten as, “Why would someone invest their trust in you?” Since online business is about developing trust and building relationships, this is a very important question.
Social media is increasingly viewed as a social interactive medium, not as a sales platform for companies offering a service. In generating new business, companies should use several social media platforms to promote a common theme; one that will facilitate communication with them and the building of a trust relationship. Trust could come as an expert – webinars are excellent tools to achieve this goal, by reputation, testimonials, word of mouth or even by the quality of content. This pre-condition helps set the tone for future and more direct conversations.
IBM’s four questions are relevant to most businesses regardless of their size. Utilizing these questions for both traditional and social media marketing purposes with targeted goals and a documented strategy can greatly facilitate success, attention, sales and the acquisition of new customers.
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