Before Your Company Launches a New Social Presence, These Questions Must Be Answered — Or Else

Brands that found success on networks didn't do so by going blindly, but by observing first and then finding out how their brand can become an authentic contributor.

It seems like every day, a new social network pops up. Yo, Meerkat and Periscope popped up from nowhere, while overseas, Line, WhatsApp and WeChat are setting the standard. But how can you tell if it’s appropriate for your company to be on “the best big thing?”

As Gartner managing vice president Julie Hopkins told attendees at Gartner’s Digital Marketing Conference this week in San Diego, Calif., check it out first, understand the landscape and accept that a learning experience might be the only thing that comes from it.

Hopkins talked about brands that have found early success on Snapchat, Medium, Instagram, Line and Tumblr. They didn’t do so by going blindly, but by observing first and then finding out how their brand can become an authentic contributor.

But the biggest mistake many companies make? Expecting a direct and immediate return on investment from launching a presence on a new social network, Hopkins said:

One of the reasons why you may be on a social site, one of the reasons why you may engage, is not necessarily for the end sales value. … There are often reasons why you live places just so you can connect with an audience, so you can look current, so you can look contemporary and you can claim the press.

Hopkins cited the work that Mercedes-Benz has done on Instagram, connecting with influencers to take over the account and share their experiences with the latest luxury vehicles. She also talked about Audi, which was arguably the first brand to have a conscious presence on Snapchat, where Snapchat Stories receive roughly 1 billion views daily.

Other brands doing well on newer or emerging platforms: Marriott on Medium, NBA on Tumblr and Paul McCartney on Line.

Hopkins also praised the work done by GE on several sites. The company unpacks its long history of innovation to give viewers an inside look at where the company has been and what it’s working on for the future.

The one thing all of these brands have in common is that, as Stephen Covey says, they first sought to understand, then to be understood. Before deciding which platform is right for your company, find out which ones make the most sense for your current and target audience. Once you’ve done that, spend some time just as a consumer of the platform to learn about the communication flow. If you feel that your company would have something worthwhile to contribute, then you can plan how to best reach your current fans and future customers.

If that situation scares you, that’s okay. It’s a scary concept right now. Hopkins talked about how companies can define value on these newer social networks, where it can be difficult to determine direct sales or return on investment:

You’re going start by looking outside your program and asking, “Are our consumers present on these networks?” Super important and relevant piece of the conversation that often falls off the table as soon as something new and interesting and shiny shows up. Do they care about you there? Are they hanging out there? Do they want to talk to you there? You have to have a rational conversation about that.

Readers: How do you determine where your brand should have a presence on social?

Top image courtesy of Yeamake /