(edit: the link to Paige’s original piece is no longer valid. Here’s a link to Google’s cached image of it. The links below also now point to the cached version of it. hat tip to Mike C. for pointing that out to me.)
Paige Henson guest-wrote a piece at The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia, USA recently (June 3, 2009) titled “Ten Common Social Media Mistakes”. I won’t recite it verbatim here (why needlessly extend this post, right? Pop on over and read it, then come back here), but I have included my thoughts and analysis on this. I’ve had conversations about these very items (and others) with people who are interested in social media. Some of these people are my graduate school colleagues, friends, neighbors, and even family – so the audience to whom I’ve spoken about this has ranged widely. I’ve used the first few words of Paige’s “bottom ten list” (thanks, Paige) to refresh the point, and offered my take on it immediately following.
One) Posting a page and then walking away from it. – All a visitor needs to do is look at the date of your last activity (post, status update, etc.) and they can instantly tell how committed you are to this endeavor. They can also look at the time between successive rounds of participation. This is tightly tied to number 8 below. Show a solid commitment if you’re going to step up to the plate. My 140-character-or-less summary: Don’t post for the sake of posting. Offer value. Engage. Repeat.
Two) Setting up a social media site if you’re paranoid. – If you look at this as just another channel, you might want to stop before you get too deep into an investment. Social media isn’t just another outlet for advertisements. Sure, you can re-purpose content from other campaigns and programs (and you should!), but it shouldn’t be used as another method of blasting. Mike Troiano over at Scalable Intimacy coins a new term: Social Relationship Management (SRM). It’s about connecting with customers, not finding more ears or eyes to hit with your message.
Also, Paige talks about the concept of idea or IP theft. As with anything, practitioners of social media need to use sound judgment on what is posted, shared, and contributed. Social media is another form of a conversation, except that it’s digital and can be re-purposed nearly instantly. When you’re at a neighborhood BBQ, do you start talking about the newest, top-secret technology your company is developing? No. The same goes here. Be careful with what you share. But share – because people will share back. My summary: If you show up, then you’d better show up.
Three) Spamming others with a constant stream of promo messages. – I touched upon this above. True story: a family member of mine was trying to find a way to get more exposure to some upcoming local concerts he was promoting. He doesn’t fully ‘get’ social media. I asked if he had heard of Facebook and things like that. He said he had, but admittedly didn’t know much. I suggested he create an account, and peruse for a while to see what it offers. I suggested that when people form and join groups, it’s a form of emergent marketing segmentation – they are telling you what they like. This – apparently – was all he took away from the conversation. A week later, he told me he created a Facebook account, joined a few Facebook groups and became a fan of a few things, and then blasted out the dates of his next shows. When he told me this, I shook my head. He didn’t listen. He didn’t engage. He didn’t contribute.
This isn’t quite the “constant stream of promo messages”, but you can’t just go into a room with a bullhorn and expect people to listen to you. With respect to the “constant” portion, this is akin to joining Twitter, and repeatedly blasting out messages and promos of an event or an item or something. Mix it up, share something personal (not too personal!), change topics, seek feedback. Otherwise, it’s just 140 characters of spam. My summary: Be genuine, and don’t look at this simply as “another channel”.
Four) Joining a social media network if you don’t understand how it works. – By now, you’ve seen how my responses on this span the items, rather than just sticking to one or two. My anecdote on part 3 addresses this item spot-on. To piggy-back on Paige’s point: seek help. There is a lot of it out there. And get multiple opinions, not just one. Combine this with your own research. Just because this is ‘free’ (see item 9), it doesn’t mean it’s easy or quick. It takes work to create, maintain, and nourish a relationship. My summary: You have to crawl before you can walk. If you have trouble crawling, get some help.
Five) Assuming social media networking can replace traditional advertising and public relations. – No, it can’t. It can augment, though, and it should. In Todd Defren’s e-book “Brink”, he offers a great take on this. He really gets into in on page 22, but I encourage you to read the entire e-book. The point Todd makes is that in this day and age of atomized content, you should be creating content that can be split apart and shared on other sites and through other media. He gives some great examples on how to do this. My summary: social media for now will augment traditional medial; in time, it will be part of traditional media. It will eventually just be media.
Six) Having a presence on every social network platform you come across. – Pick and choose wisely. How? Do some market research. Ask your customers where they spend their time. Go to sites like Quantcast or Alexa. Look at Forrester’s data. And beware of anyone who says they “know about all of the social networks out there”. There are too many to even list, let alone be expert.
Seven) Expecting to realize direct sales – This is my favorite point that Paige makes. Attention companies: don’t “get into” social media if you are doing it to see an instant rise in revenue. That’s not the point of the exercise. The point is to build relationships, trust, friendships, and then – ideally – brand loyalty. With brand loyalty, sales will hopefully follow. My summary: expecting to see a direct sales increase is marketing 1.0. This is the 2.0 age.
Eight) Thinking others will flock to you. – I used this analogy when having dinner with a friend (thanks to Perry Belcher for the general idea). Social networks (and social media) are like parties. If there’s a party going on, and some guy bursts through the front door, makes a scene, yells at the top of his lungs, ‘hey everybody – buy my stuff!’ and then leaves, no one is going to buy that guy’s stuff, or worse – even like him! And what if he stays, instead of leaving? That’s a recipe for awkwardness.
Instead, what about another guy who walks in the door to a party and was friendly, mingled, and made some friends? People might like him. And then two or three parties down the road, you kept seeing this second guy there… you might grow to kind of like this guy. And then at one party, he mentions that he knows about this great show coming up, and thought you might be interested, because you mentioned that you liked reggae. You’d probably say, “Gee, thanks for telling me. I really appreciate that.” That’s the analog of social networks and social media. It’s about the conversations and the relationships you form, through repeated participation. And through this participation, you bring something of value to the table.
In the example above, no one flocks to the first guy. People will flock to the second guy (especially if his recommendations are valuable). My summary: Don’t be “that guy” at a party.
Nine) Don’t think because it’s cost-free it isn’t expensive – This takes time and effort. And it’s probably taking time away from doing something else you need to do. Unless you’ve got deep pockets, then you need to decide what’s going to take the hit. But you’re not alone. Forrester indicates that many are faced with the same decision, and they are going to maintain or even increase their social media spending.
Why? Here’s an analogy: regular AM/FM radio is broadcast. It’s push content… from the tower to your radio. You listen. If you don’t like it, you change the station. The radio stations don’t know if you like this or not. They have ways of estimating. With satellite radio, they track (or they at least can track) what you listen to, from which station you came from, which station you went to, TSL (the holy grail of radio metrics, time spent listening), and the like. They get that data back, and can make adjustments. That’s 2.0 communication. So, this bi-directional marketing comes at a cost, but the benefits are great. My summary: don’t look at it as a spend, look at it as an investment.
Ten) Don’t assume it’s a “necessary evil.” – To get into social media “because everyone else is” is the wrong reason. In fact, it’s the wrong-est (I know that isn’t a word). Getting involved with social media because you want to know what your customers are thinking is the reason to get involved. In fact, I’ve already written about this here (half-way down, “Say you ran a business…”). My summary: do it because you want to, not because you have to.
There are more items I could add to this list. Can you? Take 30 seconds and drop me a comment. Hats off to Paige for starting this discussion.
(image courtesey of Vandenburg Air Force Base)