Beyond the Buzz

01 June 2015

Social media is strengthening its place as a major part of the day-to- day lives of people across the globe. In little more than a decade, social media has been adopted at an unprecedented speed and on a truly staggering scale. Worldwide it’s estimated there are:

▶  1.8 billion social network users

▶ 4.5 billion ‘likes’ a day on Facebook

▶ 500 million tweets sent a day on Twitter

▶ 5 million images uploaded a day on Instagram

In terms of devices where social media is accessed, mobile growth is clearly leading the way. This is evidenced in New Zealand which has a strong existing base of smartphone and tablet users (2.2 million and 1.0 million, respectively). According to the most recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau of New Zealand (IAB NZ), mobile advertising spend in Q4 of 2014 grew by a whopping 119% year-on-year.

Though they don’t break this down further into sub categories, there’s a strong sense that a big part of the increase correlates with the growth in accessing social media from mobile, possibly making it one of the hottest digital trends in the country. Another recent report from the IAB in Singapore found that 48% of New Zealand’s population with active accounts on top social networks, access them via mobile.

Your customers, your competitors, your business partners, your kids, your neighbours and your friends – they’re all on social media. So you need to be there too – don’t you?

For most businesses, the answer is undoubtedly yes. But many make the mistake of jumping into the social media frenzy without really asking why they’re there, and what they hope to achieve.

Investing in social media is no different to any other business investment. You need to think about how it will contribute to your business strategy, and how you will measure that contribution. You also need to understand the costs and risks involved.

To be effective, you need to provide a continual stream of engaging, relevant content and invest resource in creating an ongoing conversation with customers and other stakeholders.

As many businesses have found out to their peril, social media is a two- way conversation that cannot be ‘managed’ in the traditional sense.

Negative feedback from disgruntled customers used to be confined to a small circle of friends and family. With social media it can reach an audience of millions - in seconds.

Take for example, the “United Breaks Guitars” case, where a Canadian musician’s guitar was allegedly severely damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers. When United informed him that his miniscule claim was ineligible for compensation, he immediately created a song on YouTube where he sang that he “alerted three employees who showed complete indifference towards me”. The YouTube clip amassed 150,000 views within one day, prompting United to contact Carroll saying it hoped to right the wrong. Within four days of the video being posted, United Airlines stock price fell 10%.

So it’s important to have a clear strategy for social media and a clear link back to your overall business strategy and reputational risk management framework.

Who owns your social media strategy?

Social media is often led by the marketing department, as it’s seen as simply another channel for connecting to your market. But as the list of potential applications above shows, it can have a significant impact right across the business – so the whole business should have an input into your social media strategy. For example, consider establishing a social media steering committee with representatives from throughout the business. That way you can avoid:

▶ Taking too narrow a view and missing out on the opportunities social media presents to transform your business, and:

▶ Taking a piecemeal, uncoordinated approach to social media that is not aligned with your overall business strategy.

The steering committee should also establish guidelines for the use of social media in your business – e.g. what channels you will ‘play’ in, who can take part and in what capacity, what resources are required to achieve your social media goals, your social media ‘tone’ and ‘voice’, and so on.

Measuring success

In the same way, you should take an organisational wide view of how you will measure the impact and success (or otherwise) of your social media initiatives. There are plenty of tools you can use to measure various aspects such as likes, click-throughs, sentiment, followers etc.

These are attractive because social media is hard to measure and they provide some hard data. But the key is to focus on your intended business outcomes rather than just on activity.

Social media measurement is not easy and it’s an emerging and hotly debated topic. Likes, click-throughs etc. have their place, but they should be used as part of a multi-disciplinary dashboard approach. It should include both hard and soft measures, and should focus on the contribution of social media to overall business goals. Social media should always be aligned with your business strategy – not an end in itself.


Some different ways social media can support key business objectives:

Increasing reach and awareness – this is the starting point for most businesses and the most obvious reason to get involved in social media. Customers increasingly use social media networks as a source of information and opinion about products, services and brands. A social media presence can connect your business and your brand to a huge audience across different market segments and geographies.

Thought leadership – social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn are increasingly where people go to stay up to date with latest thinking on key issues in their field. This has particular relevance for professional services firms, who have traditionally used ‘content marketing’ (e.g. the creation of white papers, opinion pieces and journal articles) to sell their firm’s expertise.

Building profile – for professional services firms, the profile and reputation of their partners and senior people is a key driver of new business. Increasingly, clients seeking professional services are reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of key staff as well as their social media posts when they are considering engaging a firm.

▶  Build relationships with key influencers – Many important influencers have a large number of followers on social media (LinkedIn has even established a global influencers programme which includes luminaries like Sir Richard Branson and Bill Gates). Thoughtful contributions to their posts and conversations can help to enhance your own profile.

Increase marketing effectiveness - Social media can be an effective way of leveraging existing marketing and corporate responsibility activities. Paid search, banner ads and posts can link to campaign pages on your website, while Facebook and Twitter are effective forums for stories about your sponsorship or community activities.

Improve customer service – Customers increasingly expect that businesses will be on social media. They also expect to be able to interact with you there, 24/7.

▶  Increase website traffic – Social media is an important factor in search engine algorithms. Building your social media presence can help improve your site’s ranking for organic search.

Reputation and issues management – One of the major advantages of social media is the ability to listen in to what people are saying about your brand and your business.

Market and customer research – Social media networks offer huge opportunities to gain deep insights on what both your customers and competitors are doing and saying.

Improve recruitment – Networks like LinkedIn offer access to, and with, a huge pool of potential employees.

Internal collaboration – Social tools like intranets, executive blogs and other knowledge sharing tools can encourage your staff to collaborate more effectively especially over multiple locations.

How can BDO help?

BDO has extensive experience in working with organisations to help them develop effective ways to measure their marketing including social media spend.

This article was authored by our Brand Marketing effectiveness specialist, Tim Gacsal, Associate at BDO Auckland.