Right, time to challenge my attention span, concentrate and share some thoughts about our Harnessing the Power of Social Media event last week.

I’ll  just log out of Facebook. I won’t join the ‘we hate British Gas and its rubbish customer service (sic)’ group. I’m shocked to learn that that it has (allegedly)  £600 of my friends’ money and now she wants me to join a growing mob highlighting its (alleged) customer service ‘crimes’.

I’ll look at last Friday night’s photos on another friend’s Flickr gallery and pay closer attention to the combined wisdom of Tripadvisor’s Dublin accommodation reviewers when I get home this evening.

Chatting to attendees and listening to the questions put to the speakers, it seemed that the majority of delegates pretty much match me when it comes to social media. We use it on a daily basis without reluctance or fear and understand its value to us as a consumer.

So, why do many marketers struggle to fully understand the commercial challenges and get properly off the mark?

Why can developing social media marketing strategies sometimes feel like a bit of a ‘Herculean Task’?

The speakers at the event were brilliant so a big thanks to them. A balance of knowledgeable digital marketers and strategist sharing their insights and experience of a commercial use of social media.

From Zen-like simple advice, “we simply research and listen in before the planning starts”, through to providing visions of a UK social media future via an impressive demo of Korean social network/virtual world Cyworld’s mobile commerce functions, there were some common themes and excellent advice from the day:

Social media commercial challenges for companies and brands:

  • Flip your traditional PR models – social mediums are different flavours of conversations. LISTEN to your audiences/customers/stakeholders first rather than just propagate your messages.
  • Do your homework and view each social media platform separately – people behave and communicate differently in different types of social media. There is no one correct strategy that will work across, MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, YouTube, Second Life, Twitter, Flickr etc.
  • An uncomfortable value exchange? – do some soul searching. The most commercially valuable thing that you have in your organisation is almost certainly the thing that people in social networks desire from you and the most powerful social lubricant that you have. Work out how and what you can share to connect with your audiences.
  • Get out of the way – provide content, context and rewards but be prepared to take a massive step back and let communities manage themselves. Messaging will almost certainly go a little awry in the process, but was that messaging right in the first place? Aren’t these your customers after all and the best people to provide feedback?
  • Small tests often work best – Ros from Random House showed us that the biggest ROI from their social media campaigns came from some pretty surprising places. With every campaign, planning what the value exchange would be through all of the social media platforms was critical.

Some social media trends:

  • Atomisation of web content – we still think that the web works as a brand channel but reality is that people are aggregating their own content via iGoogle, Netvibes etc. Consider creating APIs and Mashups.  Brands are becoming  social media platforms rather than a destination.
  • The remarkable rise of ‘Presentism’ and personal publishing – Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook status….. seconds to publish what you are doing, what you are reading, which purveyor of fine food and booze is going to take your hard earned cash this evening and which charity you are supporting. Equally, it takes even less time for others in your social networks to read it.
  • Behavioural metadata – consider ways of capturing this to improve customer experience and your customer knowledge.

So, a Herculean task no more…. I’m fully equipped to and know where to start. The combined minds on canine social networking site dogster.com could be just the place to discuss how to capture Cerberus, guardian dog of Hades and then over to the forums on Farmers Weekly Interactive to chat about the strategic mucking-out of the Augean stables…