Getting data out of Facebook is extremely tricky, and a lot of brands are finding that having millions of people ‘liking’ them provides very little hard return on investment, as less than 0.5% ever re-visit the company page.

But even though many early adopters of social media aren’t getting the expected ROI, the shrewd ones are. They’re the people who realized early on that the secret to social media success is to build and maintain your own community, and use Facebook and Twitter as recruitment channels to get people into your own domain.

This in turn calls for delivering a very different user experience from a normal corporate website.  Not only does it need five nines availability, instant scalability for spikes in traffic, it will also need a much higher degree of management, as well as a sophisticated CMS to enable user generated content.

Social media will become a key part of a company’s DNA. We believe passionately that it should be an integral part of every outward facing person’s job role, and that you can’t outsource it. But you can learn from the mistakes of others when setting up your systems and processes.

Social media is all about sentiment, so you’re going to need textual analysis to warn you when someone posts a gripe, as well as CRM and BI to understand your fans preferences, and tailor offers to catch their interest. You’ll need ‘sentiment analysis’ to be able to see not just what your own community is saying within your own domain, but also monitor the background chatter about your business on the web.

Even though a lot of people are adopting a wait and see approach, the smart ones are looking carefully at what they might need, working with sales and marketing to understand how their roles are changing, and designing infrastructures that will support them both today and for the foreseeable future.

By Peter Smith, managing partner of the Hot To Trot Marketing Group, one of the UK’s foremost social media consultancies.