Yesterday, I was on the phone with my financial manager to get an update on my retirement portfolio. Surprisingly, he had some positive news to report – I actually had some cash generate from dividends being paid out on some of my assets. Immediately he posed the question, “how do you want me to invest those funds so they keep working for you?” My options were: invest the lump sum in a single, growing stock that currently was generating over 9% return; spread the investment over the rest of my existing mutual funds, or keep it in my reserves and do nothing. Not being the “do nothing type”, I knew I had only 2 options to consider. Either I wanted to be “all in” and really commit to the stock in hopes of a big payoff, or I wanted to help augment all of my existing efforts and reap a slow, steady growth down the road.
I think my investment dilemma above is very illustrative of the scenarios brand marketers are facing today. Do they take the limited cash they have and put it all into social media, or augment their existing offline and online efforts? “Do they invest in one particular social media channel, or in multiple ones? The answers, of course, will always depend on the goals and objectives of the business. Knowing why you need to do something should guide what you need to do.
At last night’s Social Media Club Atlanta meeting, our panelists, Jeannie Ericson, Director of Lens on Atlanta with PBA and Tony Conway, Development Director for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter and Kashi Atlanta led by moderator, Diane Deseta of White Knight, both discussed their approaches to developing “The Case for Investment” within their respective organizations. They also shared their views on measuring success and the challenges they each faced in bringing their social media investment to life.
It was a fast-paced and highly engaging conversation between the panelists and standing-room only crowd. Below are a few key excerpts I took away from the discussion:
Which brands did you look at when you were developing your Case for Investment?
Jeannie Ericson (Lens on Atlanta
Tony Conway (ATL Children’s
Shelter) – New York
How did you present the investment to your internal stakeholders? What worked, didn’t work?
Jeannie Ericson – we were fortunate because the vision and mandate was being led top-down by our CEO who says, “Tv and radio are not dying tomorrow, but they are evolving and changing with digital”. It wasn’t a question; we were going to do it. However, we focused initially on communicating that message externally and did not communicate it enough within our own organization so everyone would know what was going on.
Tony Conway – several of our decision makers were familiar with social media, so we were able to get them on board fairly quickly. With the rest, we explained that our initial investment would be a controlled experiment around a specific set of communication goals. We made sure we had a consensus in order to take that critical step.
What is your commitment level to social media?
Jeannie Ericson – we are
never going to quit – we view ourselves not just in social media, but in a
relationship where we engage our community.
Right now, we have an integrated plan for Lens on Atlanta
Tony Conway – for us, social media is not about a one-night stand. We see it as a key method in being informational and cultivational with our audience. We’ve exploded out our initial investment (which generated 2x the expected goal) and have architected an annual social media campaign.
What are some of the key elements of your investment plan that brand marketers need to account for?
Jeannie Ericson – having someone dedicated to coaching and cultivating your community base. Although stakeholders say they will participate, you need to have someone come along side of them to encourage and partner with them to do it.
Sherry Heyl (Concept Hub) – focus on teaching the benefits of the social media platform and tools first, then the actual tools with your community ambassadors.
Tony Conway – having the
RIGHT consultants to help shape your strategy and plan, help you find and tap
into the influencers and tools, is essential.
Also, you need to find the right people who can help develop key
relationships within the community to participate as well as operationalize
your platform. We were able to do that
with Georgia State and Oglethorpe and now have a commitment for interns to handle the publishing for us across seven social media channels at 50 hours per week over the next year.
How are you defining success for your investment? Internally as well as Externally?
Jeannie Ericson – Success externally is cultivating stories of users who get something accomplished using the Lens platform and permeating that out to their peers on the network. Internally, we’ve defined it as being self-sustaining within four years.
Tony Conway – We see social media as the medium to reach people in an intimate way that is unpurchasable. Externally, we define success as connecting with people and bringing them face to face with the physical experience of volunteering in our organization.
No matter who you are, making an investment decision is never simple; there are always complex factors across business, process, organizational and technical aspects. Failing to invest, however, is a decision brands cannot afford to make.
For more highlights on this conversation, go to Social Media Club Atlanta or search for the conversation thread via #smcatl in Google and Twitter.