With dozens of social marketing venues for its divisions and subdivisions, General Electric still retains central oversight, largely through its use of analytics.
As new platforms rise and fall, Paul Marcum, director of global digital marketing and programming at GE, keeps a close watch, game to test-drive their effectiveness. But he's just as willing to move on if the venue doesn't attract the desired audience. For instance, the company let its Foursquare presence go when it realized the platform was not a match for GE's marketing needs.
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With brand, divisional and subdivisional social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and more, GE found that developing and deploying content and managing every response to each audience was too time-consuming for in-house resources.
Offloading content development has allowed the company to develop an overarching social media strategy that plays to each platform's strength. Marcum considers Facebook as "GE at its most accessible" because it has the most content and fastest response times. YouTube is an avenue to celebrate GE's technology and manufacturing impact with engaging videos.
Taken together these channels "humanize the organization in a way it never had been before," Marcum says.
He selects advertising agencies based on their expertise with specific social media formats. For instance, one agency skilled in visual presentation and video deals with Instagram content; another that is known for its ability to generate micro-content is tapped for Facebook and Twitter.
Marcum acknowledges that this "robust mix requires more overhead" in terms of managing it all but ultimately calls it time well-spent.
Marcum continues to finesse GE's social marketing approach, mostly through improved analytics. In the early days, Marcum received a PDF each week with basic results such as likes, fans and followers. But that was inadequate, because "it wasn't tailored to engagement or real time and really didn't reflect the opportunity in social media," he says.
Nowadays, GE uses homegrown analytics and visualization software that pings all social media APIs for data, including Google Analytics, Facebook and Twitter. Managers can access real-time customizable dashboards that illustrate performance on a daily basis.
Marcum says this model is far better for determining the best social media platforms for specific customer segments. His ultimate goal: to have clear visibility into cost per engagement.
Social marketing: Early days
Mark Fidelman, author of Socialized!: How the Most Powerful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, has witnessed a lot of confusion in the social marketing arena, stemming mostly from an attachment to traditional marketing strategies.
Marketing gets stuck on lead generation, he says, instead of looking at the real value of social media. "Social marketing is less about converting clicks into deals and more about creating relationships. Eventually the trust built causes people to buy and that's how you monetize social marketing," Fidelman says, although there are no hard-and-fast numbers that prove that assertion.