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voodoo.pngAs Hugh Macleod, joked in a recent Twitter post, “Pretty soon we’ll have “Social” prefixing everything: Social Marketing, Social Communicating, Social Cornflakes”.
No doubt about it, buzzwords – from viral to meme to mashup to social media itself – abound. Yet, despite all the talk, the mainstream media coverage, the conferences, courses and books on social media marketing, there’s quite a bit of ambivalence, fear and sometimes outright hostility directed toward social media by CMOs, CEOs and CFOs.
Therefore, corporate types increasingly say “We just want to stick our toe in the water, and see what this stuff is all about,” and “we want to do a small, low-budget social media project” and track the ROI. Danger, Will Robinson!! Danger, Will Robinson!!!
Social media isn’t a one-shot deal Social media isn’t a technique, a short-term project, an experiment, an event, or a quick fix. It’s not something you throw money at, and using it doesn’t guarantee sales or influence.
Social media is a set of tools that can help you make your company or your products or your services what people recommend to other people who trust their judgment. Those tools provide absolutely anyone – including corporations – the opportunity to establish credibility and gain trust.
Let’s take a look at the tools people use to share information with friends and family:
• Photo and video sharing
• Email and IM
• Podcasting, video casting, video conferencing
• Self-published and self-promoted ebooks
• text messages
• shared bookmarking and annotated link sharing
• social shopping
• blogs and microblogs
• business, personal, interest and hobby groups
People use these tools to pass on information that is:
• interesting
• amusing
• poignant
• relevant
• useful
• educational
• arresting
Communication isn’t a fad People young and old use these tools and pass along information in a casual way because this way of spreading information is now part of the culture.
Yet corporations are still expecting a static website with no feedback mechanism, banner advertising, multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads, top-down messages, and over-saturated search engine advertising to pass for communication. Then they wonder why their marketing doesn’t drive sales.

A company that has open channels of communications that include social media tools has the opportunity to interact with online influentials. But they need to speak in a human voice, to answer and ask questions, to provide information. Because in a crisis, only a company with open lines of communication can be heard. Companies that participate in social media will have the opportunity to be heard and perhaps believed.
Beware the kid with a webcam? Nothing’s really changed about the way information spreads except the tools, and the speed of transmission. But while corporations, agencies and self-proclaimed social media marketers are debating the relative merits of listening to their customers, the customers already are on blogs, in consumer opinion sites, in social networks, on IM, and meeting face to face to share their opinions about these same products and services.
The value of a network? One of the big concerns of CMOs, CEOs and CFOs (besides that they’re about to lose their jobs) is that people will say something bad about the company in social media. And that’s true, they will, if there is something bad to be said. Of course, these same networks can help a CMO or CEO find a job too.
The more people a company can reach who already have strong social networks, the more likely the company can spread a message through those networks – IF the company was already a trusted member of the community.
As Chris Brogan recently pointed out on Twitter,

“The value of a network? Being able to reach out and ask questions. The price? Being there to help when you can.”

Networks also provide early warnings of problems, and give members a chance to respond and discuss solutions.
Social media provides the long-term opportunity for companies to develop and use online networks to provide information their customers find interesting, or amusing, or helpful. That becomes an opportunity to listen and to change, and to become the topic of dinner table and water cooler conversation.
See? That’s not so scary! Posted by B.L. Ochman