Why Social Media Is Not For Everyone

July 21, 2009

While many are in love with the whole concept of Social Media as being the next big thing in marketing, the holy grail that will lift sales and enhance your brand, I have seen some detractors that insist in calling out the faults and dangers or adopting Social Media as part of your marketing strategy.

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Taking the plunge into social media may not be the right thing for you

Social media is just another media

Experts, personalities and false prophets are all clamoring that social media is king. We’re told that if you have a good plan , if you follow a proven framework for rolling out your social media activities and integrate them with your sales efforts , then the ROI will be clear . That is, if you can translate all those additional site visits, downloads, and re-tweets into sales. Otherwise it’s just buzz.

Some blasphemous professionals on the other hand, caution us to be careful in our efforts, telling us we should really focus on those customers that love our product and not use social media targeting everyone. They caution us saying it could be dangerous to our business if incorrectly used and it’s only helpful to build relationships and goodwill .  Sales? Maybe not so much.

I don’t know about you, but so far it seems like Social Media is nothing more than just another media, another tool in the marketer’s arsenal. It’s like saying everyone should do email marketing, everyone should do podcasts, print ads and TV spots.

Choosing the right social media strategy

While some may say that since your employees are already using social media (facebook pages, tweeter accounts, linkedin posts, etc.) you should also jump on the bandwagon , I say there are several reasons for companies to be reluctant to embrace it wholeheartedly. The same questions you would ask before using any marketing tool available you should also ask of the Social Media tools. What is it for? Who is our target? What is our goal? What are our objectives? What resources will it require? Will we do it ourselves or will we outsource to someone with more experience?  Do we need to create rules or procedures for using it? How will we measure success?

At the company I work for we recently had an informal discussion about Facebook and Twitter, with people raising questions such as “why don’t we have a Tweeter page” or “let’s create a Facebook account and start inviting customers”. That is all nice and good, I said, but let’s first decide on why we are going to do it. Get people to buy our products! Tell them about a new release! And similar comments ensued. Yeah, but HOW do you do that? Just making sure you are Tweeting five times per day is not guarantee for success especially if you have nothing more to say that hasn’t been said already. As with any new tool or concept, it always seems easier said than done. Probably because it’s “free” (yes, you don’t have to pay for it but you do need to invest time), it is immediately implied that if you are not using it you are behind the times  and putting your company at risk.

Let’s put aside the fact that the press and the Internet in general are full of stories about how social media is transforming businesses and think in terms of marketing strategy. Why would you use a tool without first deciding how it will impact your brand, how it will impact your resources and how it will help you achieve your goals? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use it but I am simply cautioning you to use it as part of your overall strategy. If you want to create a corporate blog that focuses only on your 10 most profitable customers and you have good reasons to do it, then don’t think for a minute that you are doing something wrong. If you need to Tweet about what you had for lunch because somehow this creates affinity with your prospects and will eventually translate into sales, then knock yourself out.  Nothing is purely good or bad

Social Media In Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Learn how to use it

Before judging whether something works and the best way to use it, first attend a course, read a book, talk to people that are using it. There are several free online courses and resources on the web you can use to learn more about it. Only then will you be able to really make a good decision.

Step 2: Learn how to NOT use it

Now that you know what the social media tools are all about and how they are supposed to be used, check out the myriad of examples of companies that are doing it correctly and getting returns and also check out how companies are screwing it up so badly it is becoming a public embarrassment (recent United Airlines fiasco , IBM’s IT failure debacle , and Habitat’s tweet spam come to mind). Learn from others mistakes and then you will be ready to commit your own.

Step 3: Teach and listen

With all that good info you now gathered at hands, bring this knowledge to your company and spread it around. Educate the CEO, the sales manager, your staff and everyone else that you think can help you shape your company’s strategy towards social media. Then listen to what they have to say, you may be surprised. And don’t forget to give them the option of doing nothing. Whatever works for your business is what you should do.

How did YOU approach social media at your company? Please share!

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