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What social media is, what it’s not, and what you can do about it.
When it comes to social media, we suggest thinking about the “world wide web” circa 1995. Back then, many companies questioned the necessity of having a website. Among the few early adopters who did test the waters, many assumed they could “have their nephew create a site” and went for the path of least resistance. Not only did this launch a wave of untold technological clichés, it set many companies up to look foolish. Of course the flip side is that the few companies that did embrace the web wholeheartedly—and realized its full potential—gave themselves a huge competitive advantage that many are still enjoying to this day.
Here we are in 2012, and many companies still assume they can crank out the weekly Facebook post—maybe send out a few tweets from the company picnic—and they are doing social media. Not only are these companies squandering a fantastic opportunity, they are risking doing real damage to their brand, their reputation, and their bottom line.
The point of this article is not to make you feel bad for a few digital missteps in your corporate youth. We are here to empower you to embrace this new entity with confidence. So let’s first dispel a few rumors about social media and look at what it is not.
Social Media Myths
Social media is not a fad, and it is not something you buy—it is something you do. Even if you are a Fortune 500 company, you cannot just drop a few million dollars in a media buy on Facebook and expect anyone to notice. It does not work that way. On the other hand, if you have got something that is truly buzzworthy and it goes viral, you can wind up with several million dollars of exposure without buying a thing.
Social media is not easily quantifiable, but not doing it can show up in your bottom line. If you are looking for a measurable, trackable ROI, look to a direct-response campaign, coupon-driven print advertisement, or even Groupon. If you are looking to invigorate your brand with a dose of hip, take a look at social. The old adage that the medium is the message is acutely accurate when it comes to social.
So what is the best way to approach social media? Approach it like all the other components of your marketing mix. At its core, social media should be an integral and integrated part of your branded communication strategy.
Do not let the marketing speak scare you. Social media is an intimate way to engage your customers within a dynamic new communication platform (again, think medium as a part of the message). But perhaps its biggest strength is social media’s ability to bypass many of the “consumer defense mechanisms” and engage and educate your target audience while garnering demographic and psychographic data that marketers only dreamed of having just a few years ago. Social media is all these things and more. All of which is why it is far too important to approach with a 1995 mindset.
Making Social Media Work for You
Here are some concrete ideas on how you can take a bite of the social-media market without biting off more than you can chew.
Ask yourself what you are looking to accomplish. Not all social-media outlets are created equal, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Do you need the 24/7 connectivity of a Facebook page, or would a once-a-week blog be better suited to your needs? It all depends on what you are trying to communicate and who your target audience is.
Use social media to define and refine your voice. I am not about to give you a free pass on having an outdated or poorly managed website. However, do not let a dated, or non-existent, website keep you from embracing the social medium. With time, your social efforts can and will come to define your voice and your brand. Possibly with a little luck, your website will become so dated that it will come back into vogue, like bellbottom jeans or vinyl records.
And finally, ask yourself if what you are about to post has a value to your readers. Do not post for the sake of posting, and do not be overly boastful. If you want to share a rave review, do so tactfully and in a way that comes across as gracious. Readers, followers, or friends will not throw themselves at you like a tail-wagging puppy. You need to earn their interest with information that applies to either their self-interest or their self-expression. If what you are saying does not fall into one of those categories, you might want to reconsider what you are about to post.
About the Author
Dan Reed is the senior copywriter for the Blakeslee Group Inc.