By B.L. Ochman
Amidst the endless pronouncements about social media — often shortened to “social” these days by consultants trying to sound like they know what they are talking about — is the reality that social media is not a solution, or a sure bet.
Social media can’t:
- Substitute for marketing strategy
A Twitter campaign, or a Facebook page that announces your weekly specials is not a marketing strategy.
- Succeed without top management buy-in
Social media requires a way of thinking that includes willingness to listen to customers, make changes based on feedback, and trust employees to talk to customers.
The culture of fear (of job loss, of losing message control, of change) is ingrained in corporate cultures. Top management has to want to change.
- Be viewed as a short-term project
Social media is not a one-shot deal. It’s a long-term commitment to openness, experimentation, and change that requires time to bear fruit.
- Produce meaningful, measurable results quickly
One of the complaints about social media is that it can’t be measured. But in fact there are many things that can be measured: including engagement, sentiment, and whether increased traffic leads to sales.
Those results can’t be produced or measured in the short term. Like PR, social media marketing often produces its best results in the second and third year.
- Be done in-house by the vast majority of companies
A successful social media campaign integrates social media into the many elements of marketing, including advertising, digital, and PR. Opinion and theory are no match for experience, and the best social media marketers now have more than 10 years of experience incorporating interactivity, blogs, forums, user-generated content, and contests into online marketing.
You need strategy, contacts, tools, and experience–a combination not generally found in in-house teams, who often reinvent the wheel or use the wrong tools.
- Provide a quick fix to the bottom line or a tarnished reputation
Social media can sometimes provide quick results for a company that’s already a star. When a well-loved company like Zappos, or Google employs social media, its loyal fans and followers pay attention.
However, there’s a lot of desperation in a lot of corporate suites these days, and many companies seem been convinced that a social media campaign can provide a quick fix to sagging sales or reputation issues. Sorry, nuh, uh.
- Be done without a realistic budget
Building a site that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content, and perhaps also includes e-commerce doesn’t come cheap from anyone who knows what they are doing.
Even taking free software like WordPress and making it function as an effective interactive site, incorporating e-commerce, creating style sheets that integrate with the company’s branding, takes more than time. That takes skill, experience, and money.
- Guarantee sales or influence
Unless your effort can pass the “who cares” test – and most simply can’t – your social media efforts will fall flat.
And unless you know how to drive traffic to your contest, video, blog, event, etc. you’ll have little more than an expensive field of dreams.
- Be done by “kids” who “understand social innately”
You can climb Mt Kilaminjaro without a sherpa guide, but why would you? Experience and perspective can make the trip easier, or even save your life.
Companies trying to run social media without experienced consultants waste time, money, and reputation on their efforts. And then, sadly, many decide that this new-fangled approach doesn’t work.
- Replace PR
No matter how great your website, video contest, blog, Twitter strategy, etc. you still need publicity. Or you may end up with a tree falling in the forest, and nobody hearing it.