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October 11, 2017

A technology that was once used to create and share information through virtual networks soon evolved into a powerful marketing tool. Social media is here with the numbers to prove it. Ad spending on social channels is likely to exceed $35 billion in 2017, representing 16 percent of all digital ad spending globally. There is no denying the many advantages social media has to offer. But despite the promise, 46 percent of B2B marketers remain sceptical about social media—unsure whether their efforts have generated any revenue for their business. Perhaps, the reasons have to do with the time required to navigate and manage the many intricacies of each social network medium. These networks come in different settings and forms, bear varying degrees of data security risks, and require some investment for developing effective customer engagement and personalization strategies. Many marketers may get carried away, seeing the low costs involved and the large user base, and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Looming Security Threats

As with everything digital, the first area of concern is cyber security. There is always a risk involved when businesses share information on social media. A casual approach towards managing their accounts and chances are enterprises can end up giving away valuable insights, strategies, activities, target accounts and more. In the age of ransomware, there runs an even greater risk of being hacked.

The Internet is rife with malicious software. If these 2017 numbers are to be believed, a company is hit with ransomware every 40 seconds. Here, the Locky app is a particularly alarming example. It directly targets social networks by propagating itself through image files (jpegs) and other attachments. Once an unwitting user clicks on an infected file, the attack locks the victim’s device, demanding a 0.5 bitcoin ransom in exchange for the key. Phishing scams too make their appearance as inconspicuous bit links, tricking account holders into disclosing their personal information (like credit card numbers). Phishing attempts on social media soared by an astounding 500% in the last quarter of 2016—largely attributed to fraudulent customer support accounts targeting customers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Without stringent social media usage and data sharing governance policies, incorrect privacy settings for each platform expose organizations to great risks.

Comprehending the Medium

Cyber security issues aside, B2B marketers still find themselves struggling to understand and identify which mediums are best suited for their target audience and future growth outlook. For example, 24% of decision-makers stated they seek out Facebook when making a purchasing decision. But when it comes to lead generation, Twitter outperforms both Facebook and LinkedIn 9 to 1. In this regard, an effective strategy cannot just start with, “Who is my audience?” but will need to include, “Which social media channel do I use?”

The answer might provide some direction, but for a medium that encourages information exchange at an incomprehensible pace, businesses need to think long and hard about consistently generating engaging content. The task is made harder still by how rapidly marketing strategies need to evolve for staying relevant across channels. Reportedly, new developments in social media advertising such as the new Company Page on LinkedIn and Twitter’s Moments can help brands narrate their stories more effectively. Companies therefore must learn and adapt accordingly—failure to do so could imply that the brand’s social media account is no longer reliable for attracting customers.

While most of these channels are public, every good word from a patron is visible along with poor reviews and negative experiences shared by unhappy customers. It affects the brand’s image and damage control is expensive. A single negative review can cost up to 30 customers on an average. Businesses respond to this problem by deploying online reputation management (ORM) teams who use monitoring tools to ‘listen’ in on customer conversations on social channels and step in to provide support services wherever necessary. However, a large number of automation tools available in the market make it confusing for enterprises to identify and select one that aligns to their overall strategic needs and goals. It does not just end at deploying the right ORM tools, but also providing sufficient training to the agents who will be using them.

Fortifying Social Media Presence

When it comes to managing these social media hurdles, it all boils down to a few simple rules. The first and immediate one is to train and enhance awareness about cyber security best practices across employees within the enterprise. This should be supported by another layer of technology-driven cyber defence framework capable of preventing data breaches.

Employees also need to be equipped with the right set of social channels monitoring tools for effectively managing customer relationships and gaining valuable insights. In turn, social media marketing strategies can be crafted keeping in mind the most recent platform update and relevant media formats for engaging consumers. Many enterprises are therefore partnering with technology specialists to hedge against the inherent risks that follow the many benefits of social media. After all, approximately two billion potential customers are using social networks, and by 2021, this is likely to increase to over three billion users worldwide.

Are you willing to brave the risks and embrace social media?

Raja oversees marketing initiatives for three key businesses at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Energy and Resources. He is involved in the creation of global marketing campaigns and efficient models to drive brand awareness and sales opportunities. His key focus areas include value messaging, branding and visibility, driving thought leadership, and digital transformation initiatives. An alumni of the Tata Group Executive leadership program at the Ross School of Business, he has a Masters in International Relations from India and a Masters in International Business from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at University of Kentucky.


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