Businesses are seeing the importance of social media networking in how they market and promote their brands, but not all networks are the same, and they require different strategies in order to be truly successful, according to Google agency lead Ryan Ferguson.
Ferguson is involved in Google's recently acquired Wildfire business, which helps businesses make better sense of their Google Analytics data and understand the entire customer interaction and engagement flow with businesses.
At Australia's second Google for Entrepreneurs event in Sydney, he said that many large organisations are already taking social media seriously, recognising that engagement on these platforms helps gain and retain customers pre- and post-sales. But that isn't the most pertinent issue facing businesses today.
"The real challenge of social is actually understanding which channel within social you use for the types of needs of the consumer," he said.
"For example, on Facebook, they were very interested in obviously talking about offers, discounts, and ongoing customer service. Whereas on YouTube, they're a lot more interested in learning about what types of new products are up."
Other examples included Google+, which is used by customers more for its reviews; Twitter, for staying up to date on company news; LinkedIn, for keeping in touch with the company brand; and Pinterest, which is used mostly to find out information about new products and services.
Ferguson worried, however, that although more companies are taking the first right step by creating social networking teams, these are being siloed within the organisation.
"Social teams seem to sit out to the right-hand side. They're not owned by marketing, they're not owned by comms."
He said that the most effective companies he's seen use social networks actually integrate their social teams with other parts of the business to better control the message sent out. This may also involve re-evaluating how much of a focus the business places on social networking, with Ferguson giving the audience a number of questions that they should be thinking about.
"Are you allocating enough resources in people? Are you actually prepared to invest in responding directly to a customer as well? How quickly is your team responding to that person and actually helping them become a brand advocate rather than a brand issue?"
To then determine whether their investment is worthwhile, he said that businesses also need to be rigorous about how they measure the impact of social networking activities. This can include examining the amount of traffic through to customer call centres, the effects on a company's net promoter score (if they use such a metric), and sales.
Of course, none of it works without something to actually promote, so Ferguson said that businesses should make sure they're agile enough to develop content to push live at a moment's notice.
"When we say quickly, can you do it literally within 20 to 30 minutes? Is that an issue for your business?"