Social Media: Yellow Pages or Rolodex

From a 2000 feet prospective,  social media solutions are all the same. They more or less enable brands to listen and engage with communities.

In practice, it’s way more subtle and one analogy I’d like to propose is that you’ve providers that build Yellow Pages and others that build Rolodex (we fall into this category).

Both are useful and there are differentiated benefits from both type of solutions. What is critical however is for brands and agencies to clearly articulate their business needs and select the appropriate tool-set for the task at hand. It’s also very important to think beyond the first use of the solution selected.

Social Media Monitoring Solutions tend to be easier to setup and to operate. You just plug in your brand keywords and bingo.  (This, provided of course,  one can find the appropriate set of queries to search the Social Yellow pages).

Rolodex approach requires more work, more thinking around how a brand wants to organize its Social Rolodex and how it wants to structure its listening and engagement in different communities.  This is even more important if the Rolodex is a shared Rolodex within a mid-size/large company.

Again the analogy works very well. It takes minutes to open the Yellow Pages whereas one may spend several hours a week organizing and maintaining its Rolodex.

What’s key with Rolodex is that it enable people to build a differentiated asset that will deliver value over multiple enterprises functions and systems.

Let’s take a not-so-fictive example of an IT company that’s delivering services & product for Cloud Computing.

Using a Yellow Pages approach, it can get some pretty solid indicator relative to share of voice and (with rating) sentiment. However, without any qualification of the sources of the information (expert, influencer, audience, position in the community, analysis of what this person says over time, level of connection with the company or with competitors), it ‘ll be very difficult to transform this into actionable knowledge.

Using a Rolodex approach – and spending the time to built it-, this company will be able to:

  • Build a common repository of people that constitute the community of  “Cloud Computing”  & listen to them wherever they  write, tweet and comment (blog, twitter…),
  • Perform targeted sentiment analysis on these key stakeholders.
  • Spot whether any of these stakeholder are over time more positive or negative about them. Build action plans to change perspective.
  • Influence specific clusters through outreach, buzz and content development.
  • Thru regular participation in the conversations,  build up trust.
  • Prevent crisis, making these influencers  more careful propagating rumors or false information about the brand i.e people that they know and trust.
  • Perform deep qualitative analytics. Since the “river of news” is built from similar sources and is noise free, it can be mined with greater results.
  • Spot candidates for virtual focus group, crowd sourcing of new ideas (btw, I’m amazed that people embark in crowdsourcing without targeting. If a brand makes a strategic decision to focus its solution for small business, wouldn’t that make sense that it restrict s the crowdsourcing of new ideas from the specific small business community ?).
  • Develop communication strategies that leverage community and influencers
  • Socialize their corporate web site with the voices of these trustable sources and their audience.

and so on…

From a strategy standpoint, these approaches also differ widely:

On the Yellow pages one: the goal is to spend as less time as possible in social media, while grabbing as much as what can be learned with a Google Search like interaction. But there is no social engagement. People even dream of automating sentiment and are totally adverse to the idea of reading conversations.

One can even say that here, brand uses technology to mitigate the risk of not participating in the conversations.

On the Rolodex one: the goal is to capitalize every minute spent in social media and putting this capitalized knowledge at work for maximum benefits.

Here, listening and engagement is view as an asset and an opportunity, not as a liability.

Two paradigms, Two solutions … and so many opportunities.

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