You can’t win the ground war when you “cover off” on social

These days there are few brands that fail to
recognize the power of social media on their businesses. But it appears that
many brand teams choose to outsource social media to minimally empowered
internal or external teams instead of making a genuine commitment to listen,
participate, and respond to social discussions online.
I’m not suggesting that assigning
the role to experts is a bad decision. By identifying and compensating social
media experts, it would appear that such brands can make the most of user and
prospect discussions. Plus, brand leaders cannot spend their entire days
watching twitter feeds or analytics tools. But the decision to “outsource”
holds the danger that it will give brand leaders a false sense of confidence –
that they have “handled” social without shifting their own thinking about the
need for direct consumer involvement and interaction.
As a rule I detest military
metaphors because they create both a false sense of us versus them and
trivialize the heroic efforts of people being shot at with actual bullets. But
consider this. The US felt it had covered off on the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
Felt that with its vastly superior numbers and firepower, winning would be
easily accomplished. What US policy failed to consider was what was actually
happening in the war on the ground.
In social, far too many companies
are throwing resources at social as a means of conquering public opinion. But
the reality is that until you are a part of the activity you can’t understand
what’s happening.
You can’t “cover off” on social. It
requires deep, continued commitment to caring about what consumers say, feel,
and suggest. Some outsourced resources are excellent at bringing the most
salient information and ideas forward. Further, some companies are great at
soliciting the input and recommendations delivered by such resources. And
acting on them.
But this little plea is for the
companies that still view social as a channel instead of as a marketing style. View
social as another form of broadcast media.
Hey, reading occasional
aggregated reports of social activity is, I suppose, better than not reading
them. But failure to leverage both the richness and real time insight is
tantamount to ignoring the consumer. In our new marketing environment, knowing
what people are thinking and saying is being “on the ground.” We can’t put
consumer interaction on autopilot. 
There are good reasons to hire experts to
help manage the flow of information. But today, YOU YOURSELF playing a role in that
information exchange is essential to being a successful leader.