Who is the social media voice for your business?
You don't often hear phrases like "305% ROI" attached to discussions about social media, so I was delighted to read, via Kipp Bodnar, about Forrester's recent research into "live chat" as a sales tool. Now, live chat is arguably a small subset of the wider social media sphere, but when it attracts serious figures from a serious researcher like Forrester, companies are going to sit up and take notice (if they haven't already). Basically, the point of the research was to show that having a "live" person manning the chatroom, fielding enquiries from prospects, is a sound investment for 'big-ticket' B2B sales.
But this raises another intriguing question. If live online responses are this influential, who is given the job of spokesman for your company? And now take it a step further, who should companies use to be their voice on the web, using Twitter, social bookmarks and the rest of the social media space?
For some time, people have been talking about the Buyersphere - a term used to describe the aggregation of all the places on the web where B2B buyers get information about the products and services they buy. The Buyersphere is not controlled by marketers in the same way they control marketing. It is too fragmented, too unruly, too ad-hoc. No, what they need (and, increasingly, what they actually use) are real people. Less money is being invested in flat, one-way communications (ie advertising) and more is going towards paying for people to have real-time conversations with prospects and customers.
But how do you choose this person - or these people? It is an emerging issue, but one that companies need to address. Over time, accepted methods will become established, but for now you need to decide for yourselves. So, who is your social media voice? Here's a list of some possible candidates:
CEO? Lots of clout. Very little time.
CEO's PA? A direct link to the big boss - but how about real product knowledge?
Sales/marketing? Great product knowledge - but will they be convinced of the sales effectiveness of the medium?
PR agency? These guys should be perfect, but I can already see the agency fees quadruple as agencies count up the hours required to do a good job of representing their client online.
Customer service/helpdesk? And do they have the technical know-how to search every corner of the Buyersphere?
Create a new role? Hire someone for the job, or give an existing staff member a dedicated role. Someone with technical knowledge of all the social media. Someone who knows the company background and understands customers. It's possible...
But this is not the answer. There is no single person for the job in the same way that there is no single website where all of this information exchange takes place. The Buyersphere is massive, varied, ever-shifting and unpredictable. The real answer to the question "who is your Twitter voice" is much more simple:
Anyone who wants to. This follows the true spirit of social media. If a brand is built on truth, everyone in the organisation should live it. They would therefore be trusted to speak for the brand in the Buyersphere. Educate your people about how they can communicate with customers. Educate your people about your brand. Offer training and support. Get them tweeting, LinkingIn, Digging and LiveChatting. Give them the authority to speak on behalf of the company and they will repay your trust with frequent, enthusiastic, genuine, informative content that will encourage customers and ultimately give you a return on the time investment required.
If this thought makes you nervous, don't forget that they can talk to the world in their own time I they want to. A lesson Domino's Pizza won't forget in a hurry.