Social Media Success is About The Customers, Stupid

How do you define success with leveraging social media?  With each passing conference and industry event, the perennial mainstays of social media case studies tend to remain the same:  Dell, Comcast, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks.  All deservedly so, mind you – each of these companies embraced personalized approaches to engaging customers and building long term relationships.  “Yadda yadda yadda,” you say.  They all in many ways were first to market, which in an industry like marketing tends to benefit those who create the buzz first.

Being first to market doesn’t guarantee success, nor is it a requirement to gain success.  Despite the maturity of social media practices, I still see lots of companies (some of them clients) still either waiting to get in the game or are in it with a heavy dose of skepticism.  Often times this is because they think of success as whether their story gets placed in AdAge or is mentioned by a pundit at a conference.  It occurred to me that companies who think this way are missing the golden opportunity to focus on their customers first.  Here are some simple thoughts on defining success that may help illustrate the point.  What would you add to this list?

Social Media Success is NOT:
…getting a celebrity to retweet a post
…having more positive than negative sentiment from a social media monitoring tool
…having more “likes” than your competitors
…launching a corporate blog
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences

Social Media Success IS:
…seeing a customer come to the defense of the brand in a discussion on your company’s Facebook page
…seeing the sentiment from a social media monitoring tool improve over time
…watching customers share and comment on really valuable and relevant content your team created
…hearing a customer or business partner mention a recent blog post helped influence their decision
…getting coverage at PR and marketing conferences because of business results achieved

Success is about building relationships that “move the needle” with customers – smart marketers understand the needs, attitudes and behaviors of their customers and prospects better than anyone. Leverage that insight to build long term relationships with customers (whether first to market with the tactic or not) and success will follow.

Photo credit: cayusa via flickr