I often get calls from potential customers looking for the secret ingredient to make them "successful" in social media. I got a call yesteday from a gentleman looking for help with his Facebook Page. How did I quote him for my services? I simply told him to buy Facebook Me! and hire a virtual assistant if he didn't have time to engage. I can't teach those who don't understand the value of social media, and they won't fully understand my value, without them having experienced it for themselves.
In such a way, business both large and small embark on the road to social media nirvana. Some look for the formula, as if social media is similar to an SEO program or PPC campagin, that somehow it's a science that the experts can control for them and guarantee results. Guess what? No one is in control in social media. It's one big experiment. And if your business is not using experimentation as a social media tactic, you are not truly maximizing your social media presence.
Let me start by giving you three reasons why experiments in social media are so important:
- Social media websites themselves change frequently, adding newer and altering older functionality. This has always been the case with Facebook and more recently with LinkedIn. Did I mention that there are more than 70,000 Twitter apps that exist? In other words, the functionality governing these websites and the tools that we can use to optimize our presence on them is a moving target.
- The demographic using social media websites is continually evolving. Turn back the clock just two years: Did you forsee so many businesses, and even yourself, being that active on Facebook, that it would become a ubiquotous part of not just Gen Y society but society as a whole? Who thought Twitter would become the default channel for news reporting? And ask the founders of LinkedIn if they thought back in 2004 that more than 40% of their revenues would come from Hiring Solutions, solutions that they have developed along the way.
- How we use social media is ever-changing, as witnessed by how all of these social media websites are being used in ways that they were never designed or intended for.
In other words, no one can predict how this will evolve except that we are in the midst of an unprecedented convergence of how we communicate and where we go for information.
So what can you and your business do to take advantage of this eternally unstable situation in social media?
Experiment. And then experiment some more. Try something new. Figure out what works and what doesn't. Learn from it and optimize. Kaizen.
The objective of experimentation isn't just for the sake of experimenting. It's about finding what sparks engagement, spread of word, new fans, and action in what you do in social media. And guess what? You won't know what works until you try it, analyze the results, and incorporate your findings in how you refine your social media strategy going forward.
Let me give you an example. On a recent trip to Japan I had the chance to meet the social media lead for Microsoft Japan, Gosuke Kumamura. Kumamura-san's official title is Online Marketing Manager, but he had also become their Social Media Lead because he had been passionate internally about the need for social media strategy. After their successful integrated marketing campaign for the launch of Microsoft Office 2010 which helped them sell twice as much as they did for the launch of Office 2007, he then turned his attention to Twitter and realized that the main Microsoft Japan Twitter account @Windows_Japan had suddenly amassed 5,000 followers. Who were these people? Why would they follow Microsoft Japan on Twitter? He decided to create an experiment to find out more about what he should do in uncharted waters. This is what he did:
He created a campaign website for these 5,000 Twitter followers to enter their personal information in exchange for having a chance to win some products.
When I talk about experimenting, I don't mean it has to be something that is high risk. It requires creativity and an objective. Kumamura-san wanted to better understand this Twitter demographic to better serve them.
Of the 5,000 followers, a little more than 500, or 10%, responded. Through these responses, Microsoft Japan found a wealth of information regarding this unique Twitter demographic. Interestingly enough, 70% of the respondents were under 30 and most were college students. This under 30 demographic had traditionally been a difficult population to market to, so now Microsoft Japan could create a strategy to leverage this demographic to meet their marketing objective.
This is a great example of how social media experimentation can be done through a campaign. You don't need a new product or service to launch a campaign: Launch a campaign to experiment with what is and what isn't working with your social media strategy.
On a final note, if you think that by merely reading books and attending webinars will make you successful in social media experimentation it really won't. A good friend lent me Wired for Thought, which I will be honest in telling you I haven't finished reading yet. But, as the book suggests, if the Internet, with social media being an important part of it, is constantly rewiring our brains, and then our rewired brains constantly evolve in how we use the Internet and social media, what worked for one company probably won't work as well, or at all, for you because of the ever-evolving environment in which we live.
The best way to experiment in social media is to return to the definition of experimenting:
try something new, as in order to gain experience
With experience comes knowledge that we can now apply to continually optimize and improve our efforts in the spirit of kaizen.
If you are interested in further discussing this topic, I will be the host moderator of the #KaizenBlog chat on this Friday, April 9, from 9 A.M. to 10 A.M. PST. #KaizenBlog was introduced to me by Candaian PR guru Judy Gombita, founded back in 2009 by Valeria Maltoni, and is currently managed by Ellen St. George Godfrey. I hope you'll join us!