OK, so I am now integrated into social media (or sort of). Those who attended the Western Sponsorship Congress™ in Calgary last month will have experienced the Twitter, blog and social media interactions.
Over the past 14 months or so, I have written and often spoken about where we as a company stand with social media. It was always about doing it right or not doing it at all. (The same goes for sponsorship and sports marketing investments.) Many social media experts agreed. They supported my belief that you need to be really prepared if you are going to get into social media. You need to dedicate resources. You need to determine your measurable outcomes and track them to ensure they are being met, just like a sponsorship investment. Like any good sponsorship program, metrics, measurement, attention to detail and activation of the process must be undertaken.
Until August 2010, we were not prepared to go there. It was not saying, “Social media is no good.” It was saying, “Social media is amazing, but I am not sure I can afford it right now.” You wouldn’t buy a new building to house your business if you could not afford it (I hope), so why would you invest in social media until you could afford it? And too many people say, “Oh, social media is free.” It is not free. There are huge labour costs. Be prepared.
In August, we took the plunge. We think we did it right. The resources we needed to dedicate were more than just financial. Sure, we needed to commit an additional person and salary, but existing staff also needed to commit time and become partners. We needed integration across our divisions, not a social media silo. And I needed to allocate time. All these resources were committed. It was a big investment for a small company, but we were ready to do it. I felt a lot better doing it right, long after everyone else was on the bandwagon, than doing it earlier when I did not have the total resources (staff, time and money). I watched others who had done it and let it slowly fade away. I watched them jump onto FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn and not manage or activate them. I am glad we did it the way we did.
Under the direction of our Social Media and Online Marketing Manager Shannon Bowen-Kelsick, we have integrated several online platforms, or at least begun. I am now on LinkedIn personally. With Shannon’s support, I can manage it. I am connected to 900+ people. Shannon makes this possible; I could not do it alone. But I must interact as well. It is not only about your social media staff doing it; you need to do it too. (Please connec with me on LinkedIn, I look forward to it.) Linking with 900+ people means nothing unless I interact with them and engage them. Otherwise, LinkedIn is a waste. My team and I know this. I must allocate the time and participate. That will come soon.
Then there is the Twitter thing and the blogs. To date, we have over 650 followers on Twitter. This is not huge, but they actually follow and tweet with us. (Over 500 tweets about the Western Sponsorship Congress™ occurred during the Congress alone. These were both from people at the Congress and several who were not attending.) They are passing along our messages; they are expressing opinions, and integrating with us and the big world out there. It is working.
On the blog side, this Tuesday Morning’s Memo, our newsletters and breaking news are no longer restricted to delivery by email. Through our blog (on which all of these are posted) the world can reply. This is beginning to happen. It was neat to see a blog prior to the Western Sponsorship Congress™ that spoke about how excited the blogger was to be coming and mentioned some of the key workshops she hoped to attend. Two were sponsors as well and were noted by personal presenter name and company name. The sponsors were impressed and said so as we forwarded the information to them.
So yes, we are finally in the social media world. It is working for us. We are tracking against deliverables. We are seeing connections, but more importantly, retention and interaction. We made the investment when we could afford it, from both the staff time and financial perspectives. They say success comes to those who wait. (What is the average timeline for a sponsorship in Canada – 18 to 22 months – it takes patience to be successful.) I believe our patience in getting here has blessed us with a superior product approach, and better social media plan and program that benefit our users and ourselves. Like a sponsorship, it must be relationship driven, it must be affordable and it must deliver measurable ROI. We are there.
The question now becomes, how is your social media program working? Is it integrating sponsors? Is it delivering measurable ROI for you as a brand? Are the resources there to be effective? Step back and take a really hard look at your social media program. Is it successful? Or is it just a FaceBook account that you have forgotten to update for the last two months? Make it work or get rid of it. Like sponsorships, social media programs are partnerships that need to deliver a win-win for both the sponsor and the property, or in the case of social media, for the user and the product supplier. Otherwise, they are not worth having.