When Social Media is not a right fit for your business.
There seems to be a disconnect – or at least a misunderstanding of exactly where the value of social media lies and how that connects with a business.
I have been in one too many boardrooms where the conversation turns to the “value of social media” and the fact that our events or activation MUST have twitter buzz. Why?
Let’s turn back the clock a bit – and only a bit – as these formats are relatively new (at least for the people grappling with synergy between brand and social zeitgeist).
Social media has grown exponentially successful as it seeks to close the gap between people that has been created by technology, globalisation, time and geography. It allows us to connect and re-connect with one another, measure and judge our own growth through our peers, follow and like things, give our opinion and feel like a global citizen with a verified number of friends or followers.
Part of the success and proliferation of social media is that it allows an unfiltered soapbox to individuals, regardless of stature or social standing, on an immediate global platform. It’s about people talking to people, expressing themselves, liking things, sharing their (mostly mundane) daily experiences for anyone who cares to listen.
For a generation that has yearned to be heard, technology has answered their call. Even if no-one pays attention – it still feels great to tweet and express one’s feelings and frustration – it’s cathartic.
But business wanted in on this. If people were talking to each other and connecting – where did business fit in – if at all? In fact, Facebook themselves have constantly strived to maintain (to various debatable degrees of success) a delicate balance between advertorial/ banner pops/ sponsored messages and personal content. (They have to make money right?)
Today’s marketers and Creative Professionals continue to grapple with the idea of how to promote a business/ product through social media. Some have had enormous amounts of success – with various ambush “like” strategies (Burger King’s Unfriend campaign being case in point).
Now I’m going to rant a bit.
Small business did, until recently believe that they HAD to have a web site. Once they had one – everything would be good in the world. The cash floodgates would open and money would roll in. That just didn’t happen. And while having a web presence made it easier to tell people about your business and product/ services, they still needed to know where to look. Marketers soon realised that a strategy was needed to get people to the site first – then compel them to make contact with the brand.
Web designers and “IT solutions consultants” would promise hits to the site and serve up monthly reports of traffic – often showing no correlation between actual sales and clicks.
Then came social media – from its roots in binary chat rooms to the fully fledged Facebook presence and Twitter feed – not to mention the various other permutations of Tumblr, Pintrest and many others. The wonderful world of web designers and marketers quickly developed a plan, hit the streets with their hipster thick-rimmed glasses and Macbook Pros, swarming the boardrooms, convincing the execs that the “Next Big Thing” was to ensure that they were “socially active”.
So which businesses should have a social media presence and which ones should focus their energies elsewhere?
If your business has a product to sell to the target market who use social media – then go ahead. Challenge your agency to come up with clever ways to get your public to engage with your brand in a real way, accepting and incorporating your brand into their peer group.
If your company has something to say and contribute to the community and people actually WANT to hear and know more, you too should have some form of online presence.
If your entity sells online and click-through is your daily bread – social media can be an important driver.
Let’s face it – most people would find some way to answer “Yes” to at least one of the statements above, validating their perception that they “need” a social media presence.
Before you jump on that bandwagon – let’s look at the flipside.
Social media is only effective if your presence is:
- Consistent in language and personality
- Perceived as valuable
- Not exploitative
- Seen as a peer and citizen of the group.
A business social media presence is, by definition, not honest. It is a fictitious personification of a brand. It is a thinly veiled sales and marketing tool to create brand awareness and drive sales. Measured by the above accepted rules of social media society, a company cannot be at all credible, but rather a tolerated annoying neighbour who has cool parties and gives cool gifts every now and then.
There are other drawbacks of running a Facebook account too:
While they are perceived as “free”, they are expensive to run and can cost your brand more than you bargained for. They need to be constantly maintained. When someone responds to a post or mentions you, you need to respond almost immediately.
Your content must be current and relevant, not just to the general public, but specifically to your ecosystem.
If you deliver a service, you must carefully weigh your own promotional needs against the confidentiality of your clients. Personally, I believe that any company that executes events for commercial clients should NEVER have a social media presence. In a work where companies need to celebrate and communicate – yet are constantly under scrutiny by hungry shareholders for return on investment – the last thing they want is a wayward agency bragging about the multi-million dollar project they just executed for them. Dangerous times!
The social media space also opens itself up to criticism, review, undeserved and unfair brand assassinations and more. Remember, the Twiteratti have the same publication power in their virtual world as the world’s most accomplished and respected commentator in the physical world.
No brand is immune to the venom that twists around the bits and bytes of the social space, much like our real world. As such, you need to be prepared to defend your space – both physically and virtually.
This all boils down to one basic fact – you need empowered, smart staff, resources and time to manage your virtual social space. Getting this right can cost you considerable money, distraction and mindspace.
I was recently taken aback in a meeting where a client offered the following answer to my question around marketing strategy: “Well, we are on Facebook, our MD tweets every now and then and we have printed a really nice brochure.”
This cretin deserves to be fired!
So, how do I know if my business needs a social media presence?
If you can create a direct correlation between clicks, friends, likes and your physical sales – then YES.. you need a Facebook site. But if your customers don’t make their multi-million-dollar decisions based on your daily status or who else is in your friend network – I’d look elsewhere for a solution to market your wares.
If your customers are niche and rely on results, referrals and proof of concept- Facebook is not your solution.
The awful truth is that now, more than ever, companies need to be vigilant around their communication strategies and while social media CAN provide wonderful solutions to some, it is far from a quick fix direct marketing tool that it’s pumped up to be. The wolves are at the gate and they will try to sell you anything. Don’t be fooled by their slick marketing speak and Infographics. Simply ask for a direct correlation and put a performance contract in place – with penalties.
Don’t get me wrong- I don’t have it in for web developers at all – I believe a lot of them are incredibly talented individuals who create amazing works of tangible art. I do, however, question their salesmen and believe that a great web developer is clicked and referred.
I yearn for the day when a client contracts these “solutions designers” to create the solution they propose – fully paid. However, a minimum performance parameter must be in place, and should the project prove to be ineffective – you deserve DOUBLE your money back.
Let’s see who tweets what then!
© Copyright David John Newton 2013