As baseball grinds through the 2012 playoffs, the previous 162 games are quickly forgotten and even the fair-weather fan knows it’s either “win big” or “go home.”  Arguably, social media has also entered the playoffs—no longer a promising rookie but now a reliable, multi-faceted, game-changing veteran. 

And lest you think this is just another pitch from a daily practitioner, I called upon the wisdom of four big league players from Aramark, Accenture, Sephora and Barclaycard, all of whom presented at Pivot last week and helped shape this four-part social media game plan that should be a hit in just about any industry. 

Raise Your Game

With the introduction of a one-game wildcard play-in, two additional teams got a chance to reach postseason glory by winning when it counts.  In social, every company—even B2B brands—also must raise their game to advance.  Or as Danna Vetter, VP Consumer Strategy at Aramark, put it, “We needed to make sure social was no longer a tactic but a business strategy.” 

“The table has turned and consumers are driving how and where they will be serviced,” Vetter continued urgently. “They expect companies they interact with to be active in social.”  Consequently, after laying the groundwork internally, Vetter “created listening frameworks that helped identify, route and respond to social conversations.”

Play as a Team

While baseball fans are famous for their devotion to individual player statistics, team averages for batting and pitching make all the difference in the playoffs (one look at the Yankees anemic .157 team average vs. the Tigers and you’d know what happened).  The social media equivalent here is broad employee participation, as the winning companies make sure that just about every employee is trained and encouraged to be brand advocates on social media.

Explains Jason Breed, Accenture’s Social Media Practice Lead, “Empowering your networks is a strategic advantage at this point.” For companies that truly embrace social, success results when “every employee is an advocate, not just the media-trained execs,” adds Breed. 

Extend Your Line-up

Inevitably during the playoffs, a previously unsung player emerges as a hero, pitching in at just the right moment to help his team to victory.  In social media, this means looking beyond the tried and true platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and experimenting with emerging ones like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr.

With nearly 4 million fans on Facebook, Sephora has a huge social sales engine on its hands.  But as Bridget Dolan, VP of Interactive Media at Sephora, notes, “The velocity of Pinterest growth combined with its shopping-centric nature have made it a very promising sales channel since we launched on that platform 6 months ago.”

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Thanks to Billy Bean’s “Moneyball,” “the game of inches” transformed from a hunch-driven sport to a stat-driven enterprise. With social, the opportunity to get smarter about your products and customers is never-ending, and a few inspired companies are uncovering innovative ideas that will drive future success. 

Paul Wilmore, Managing Director of Consumer Market at Barclaycard, set up an “Innovation Lab” that resulted in what just might be the first crowdsourced credit card.  Notes Wilmore, “Crowdsourcing can be used to take the guesswork out of product development and traditional market research tactics.”

Final Note

The quotes above are like grass stains on a player’s uniform: indicative of dramatic action but hardly able to tell the whole story.  To see my complete and truly enlightening interviews, just click on these links: Vetter, Breed, Dolan and Wilmore or visit TheDrewBlog.