“Do you have a case study you can share?” A common question familiar to many of us working in the PR industry and one that we hear more so than ever before when we enter into conversations about social media.
At a recent roundtable hosted by LEWIS in Hong Kong with corporate communication and marketing directors from local and global B2B technology companies, it was evident from the conversation that case studies are a critical part of the process to justify investment in social media.
B2B communication and marketing professionals in Hong Kong want to see local case studies relevant to their industry. For them, they are key to overcoming the doubt, skepticism and conservatism that still very much hang in the air, about how useful social media platforms can really be in reaching their desired audience.
While case studies are a good source of understanding and a great way to share experiences, my fear is that companies are relying too heavily on them to provide all the answers to their questions: ‘How do I get started?’, ‘What should the strategy be?’, ‘What channels should I use?’, ‘How can I best measure the ROI?’
Many are waiting in anticipation for that perfect success case study to appear, which directly relates to their industry and local market, so they can use it to demonstrate to their senior management team that social media does, in fact, work.
There is no magic formula to social media success and no ‘one size fits all’ approach. You can read as many case studies as you like and as successful as they may be, what often isn’t covered is the trial and error that companies go through to reach that success. They will have faced obstacles, there will have been things that didn’t work and the evolving social media landscape means they will have had to make adjustments to their strategy along the way.
Companies need to look beyond case studies and explore:
- Engage and communicate – speak with agencies/independent consultants/experts about social media. Perhaps meet with two or three different people/agencies to help you get a feel for what it’s all about. You don’t have to sign up and commit to work with them, just be up front and set the expectation that you’re in the exploratory stage and seeking insight and advice. People will happily speak with you.
- Attend industry events – find out what social media seminars/industry conferences/networking events are taking place in the city, get out of the office and go along. There are regular meet-up groups such as HK Social – this group is full of people passionate about social media talking about their experiences and the latest trends. There are also usually some informative lunch sessions held at the various chambers of commerce and associations, so check them out too. Finally, I recommend you attend the upcoming Social Media Week. Taking place once a year, you can attend ‘101’ and ‘how to’ sessions’ and mix with others who are also learning and with those who are immersed in all things social media.
- Educate yourself – While time is always of the essence, if you have some spare, you may also want to do some more formal level of education – online courses or find someone locally who is willing to spend some one-on-one time to show you how to get the most out of using social channels. You may also want to consider bringing experts into your organization and training a team of people on social media and how to use the channels – this could extend beyond the communications department to your sales team.
You’ll be able to gather a wealth of information by speaking to people locally as well as researching online.
We know social media, for many, is still overwhelming, but be brave and dip your toe in the water; you don’t have to jump all the way in. You can start small, perhaps just pick one channel – that is most relevant – be it Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, and figure that out first. You don’t necessarily need to do everything all at once.
As discussed by my colleague Dean here, as we begin to deploy new social media tactics, it’s inevitable that everyone will need to embrace the idea that mistakes do happen and social media comes with some trial and error.
Mistakes have been made by those you think have got it right and you might make some too. As Irish novelist, James Joyce said in Ulysses, ‘mistakes are the portals of discovery’, so I encourage you to go and discover. There is no right or wrong way, learn from your own experience as well as others and become the case study!