I have not posted for a while because, well, because I just didn’t feel like writing another blog about some meaningful event that was transpiring in the Social Media “verse”. I decided to spend more time reading than writing and came to the conclusion that when it comes to Social Media – there’s a lot of bullshit out there.
First, let me state that I do believe that Social Media is useful – even necessary – for businesses and non-profits. But, man, there are a lot of people out there slinging a lot of hash (not hashtags) about Social Media and how it is now the king of all media (sorry, Howard).
I kept seeing the studies and surveys that tell me how much spending on Social Media marketing will continue to dramatically increase until it eclipses the GDP of Eritrea. Of course, all these studies and surveys are conducted with marketing managers and ad agency execs who are talking more about process than production.
We see more and more brands diving into the Social Media fray talking about hopes and aspirations – but delivering very little in the way of sales or donations.
And, the ever-expanding universe of Social Media gurus, experts, ninjas and wizards continue to shout the equivalent of “expeto patronus” hoping that the green flashes blind the rest of us to the harsh realities of Social Media. They prey on the small and medium business person who generally hails from an age when sitcoms ruled TV and newspapers provided the news-of-the-day. The buzz is so pervasive they are ready to do anything just to make sure they can say they are Facebooking and Tweeting and doing whatever else the kids these days do.
Hence, all the bullshit.
So, in an attempt to shovel the stall floor I will clarify some misconceptions, assumptions and distortions.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS ESSENTIAL – Despite all the bullshit Social Media IS a necessary part of your marketing strategy. However, it is only a part of the plan. Social Media is the tail, not the dog. It complements (some say amplifies) what you are doing through your other marketing channels. In the late ’90’s consumers and donors expected you to have a web page. It was a novelty that evolved into a necessity. Today, they “expect” you to have – at the very least – a Facebook page. This does not mean they care, will visit it or even like it. They just expect to see that blue “F” on your collateral material.
IT IS NOT ALL OR NOTHING – This does not mean you MUST have a presence on every Social Media platform. You just need to be somewhere – and Facebook is the best place to start. If you’re in the customer service business you do need to claim your Yelp page, be aware of foursquare and monitor any other mentions of your brand. But, do you really need a You Tube channel if you do not have the resources to produce regular and interesting video content? Do you need to maintain a Flickr account in addition to posting pictures on your Facebook page? And what’s all this brouhaha about Twitter? Do you have enough to say to justify the time investment? Then there’s Pintrest and Google+, oy.
That said, once you take the plunge you have to maintain it. That is why it is important to decide what you can support before you dive off the ledge. If you do not have the resources, time or ideas to maintain a Social Media presence every day – wait. Better to have no presence than a lame one.
WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA – In a word – fun. People use Social Media to post pictures, connect with friends and share what they are doing. It is self-indulgent and self-gratifying. That is the key motivator for the incredible spread of Social Media.
So, before you make the plunge you need to ask yourself how you can inject your mission or brand qualities into this stream. People are not sitting on Facebook waiting to hear from their plumber or Goodwill. It is up to you to give them a reason to like you, share you and otherwise give a damn about you. Which means you need to master the Holy Grail of Social Media – content!
That means you need to hire someone who can write and create. Sorry, but sloughing it off on the interns or that recent college grad is not the same as developing a content strategy. This stuff takes time and effort. Content development is both a skill and an art form.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS ABOUT LISTENING – If you don’t have the time or the content to deeply involve yourself in Social Media you must – at the very least – pay attention to what is going on around you. People are talking about your brand. Unfortunately, many of those conversations are negative. Let’s face it, anger about a bad service experience is more motivating than joy over a pleasant one.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY – The Parento principle dictates that only a few of your customers or donors will give a damn about your Social Media. So, do not get caught up in the numbers game. Do not gaze longingly at Facebook pages that are thousands strong. Base your expectations on your universe. A good place to start is with your email database. If you are going to launch a Facebook page set as your goal 10% of your database.
THINK LIKE A FAN – What is in it for them? Why should they care about what you have to say? Deliver content that matters to them! You don’t develop a relationship by talking about yourself in the real world – why would that technique work in Social Media?
I am a big fan of Social Media. Heck, I even earn a living doing it. But, I also see it for what it is. A great marketing platform that has its own set of rules and procedures and requires constant attention. At the same time, it is a work in progress and changes almost every single day (hello, Pintrest).
Does your business or NPO need to be there? Absolutely. Just be smart about it and watch where you step.
Steve Allan, SMThree
Social Media Specialist.