Richard Weaver

Ecommerce Director, Majestic Wine Warehouses Ltd

Majestic is much admired for its progressive approach to social media – increasing engagement with the Majestic Wine brand and building a community around each store. Richard is at the front line of social media and is known for his cogent analysis and articulate insights. And his wine blogging is pretty damn good, too.

What were the biggest changes for social-driven businesses in 2011?

   

This was the year social marketing went mainstream, which means there is a lot more "noise" and competition for brands in social spaces at the end of 2011 than there was at the start, and a lot more socially-oriented content on businesses own websites. Social almost by definition requires a bit of originality to be a success -- the days of simply having a Twitter and Facebook account being enough to get noticed are gone.

Having said that, 2011 was also a year in which social advertising boomed, in particular Facebook ads, giving marketers a cruder but potentially powerful way of growing their audience.

   

"The days of simply having a Twitter and Facebook account being enough to get noticed are gone."

Richard Weaver

What social channels or platforms are growing and which do you think will decrease in importance?

   

Google+ very clearly has the biggest potential, simply by virtue of being new, and being backed by Google. In particular, the introduction of Google+ content into the search results means that a Google+ presence for brands has SEO and advertising benefits that go beyond the merits of Google+ in its own right. That's a risk for it's success as a social network - if brands and advertisers embrace it too quickly it could put "real world" customers off.

Also, mobile-only social platforms such as Foursquare and Instagram are in the right place as people increasingly turn to mobile devices to power their social connections, and I think we'll see a lot of innovation in this area in the future.

What has been the biggest disappointment or over-hype?

   

Google+ was almost inevitably over-hyped. It has attracted a lot of attention from marketing and technical people but real world take-up lags behind. However, this says as much about the expectations as it does about the actual network - personally I quite like it!

Color was a bit of a flop as well.

Big companies like Dell and Zappos get a lot of attention for their social efforts. What smaller companies have demonstrated the power of social business over the last few years?

   

Big companies have the resources to pay for the consultancy and media required to deliver results in social spaces so you'd expect a well-run business to have a decent presence in social media.

Smaller companies are more dependent on having the right individuals who understand social media intuitively, but when they do they probably have more to gain because doing social well can be a very low-cost form of marketing. Certainly, if you're considering launching an online start-up, social should be baked completely into the fabric of your business plan, but even for other small businesses there's potential.

For example, I've been in contact with the producers of Broighter Gold, a fantastic rapeseed oil that's made about a mile from my father-in-law's house in Northern Ireland. It's a family business but they’re very active on Twitter and Facebook and it's a great way of getting their name and product recognised.

   

"Smaller companies are more dependent on the right individuals."

Richard Weaver

What's the next big thing for social business?

   

Marketers have been quick to integrate social presence with other forms of marketing - look how many adverts have Facebook and Twitter URLs in them now - and in coming up with clever social campaigns that encourage interactivity.

However, the next step will be to begin to pull what we can learn about customers through social channels back the other way, for example incorporating social interactions into the (usually mythical) single customer view.

What should a CEO or senior strategist be keeping an eye on in 2012?

   

I believe that for businesses that hope to ultimately monetise their social presence we're at the start of a necessarily quite long curve. Interacting with individuals in social spaces requires us to be subtle - people log in to Facebook to interact with their friends and family, and clumsy corporate messages are likely to be a major turn-off.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't have a long-term ROI goal – measuring and accounting for this will be a key trend in 2012, with the web analytics providers clearly positioning social as one of their key focuses this year.

   

"Measuring ROI will be a key trend in 2012."

Richard Weaver

What role do you think CRM will play in the social business of tomorrow?

   

CRM is intrinsic in what we're doing at the moment with social - a one-to-one interaction on Twitter is a form of CRM the same as any other. What we're likely to see in the future is a greater level of integration with CRM systems and "single view of the customer" databases with customers' social accounts.

How can a company inject social media into its culture?

   

Building a social media culture is something we try to do widely at Majestic. We have online content generated in all of our 175 stores, feeding a store-specific Twitter feed and shortly a Facebook place page for every store, so over 800 retail staff have the tools to contribute to Majestic's social presence.

Is there a downside to social media in business? What are the risks?

   

Most social media thrives on it's culture of immediacy and instinct - conversations happen in real time and if companies are going to get involved the individuals that represent them have to constantly balance the needs of brand message, tone and of course the rules and regulations of marketing. It's easy to lose track of some of these things in the heat of the moment, and there's a risk of a gaffe. That's why it's important to have good people running your social accounts!

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