Social media has changed the way we communicate. It has also altered the way we get information from our peers rather than the more official channels.Twitter, for example, has possibly become more popular to learn about breaking news than media outlets. When two workers were caught on a broken scaffold on the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower in New York City last week, my first reaction upon seeing numerous helicopters circling Midtown Manhattan was to check Twitter.
The widespread effect of social media means that organizations need to integrate these channels within their overall marketing and communications strategy. Social media cannot be an afterthought but weaved in from the start.
"Social is permeating across the business and the impact of social has several implications on the brand," stressed Jonathan Pierce, American Airlines' director of social media communications, during last week's Integrated Marketing Week conference.
Integrating social media as part of the whole marketing strategy has worked for the airline. "Social is changing our customer behavior and that need for immediacy is driving the need for brands to have real-time response," Pierce said. "We're designing an organization that is able to respond effectively and efficiently." Pierce's 19-strong team is working to connect with customers and create a long-term relationship.
But this is not without some challenges. Customers are bombarded with information from every angle, including their family and friends and other brands. "Your information is sitting next to pictures of babies and information from relatives, so a brand needs to have messages that really connect," Pierce stressed.
Most importantly, social media messages need to be seamlessly integrated within the overall marketing strategy. "The customer sees one brand," Pierce said. Therefore, social media messages need to have the same feel as other brand messages over other channels.
In order to have a successful social media strategy, American Airlines' social team is connected to the rest of the organization and shares information from social channels with other departments to help them make the necessary changes. "Data is at the heart of social," Pierce noted.
One of Pierce's recommendations is to make sure that social media content is shareable to help amplify the brand's message. "Social media is quick and can amplify the story. The challenge is deciding what to share," he said.
Social media can make a huge impact on an organization's messages and the way a brand interacts with customers. However, this should be part of the overall marketing messages and not a stand alone strategy.