By Jonathan Levi, an Elumni and the founder of Jlevi Streetwerks, Inc.
If “synergy” was the buzz-word of the 1980′s, and “dot-com” was the buzz-phrase of the 1990′s, then “Social Media” is the present-day rendition. Social Media seems to be all anyone wants to talk about: from Facebook and LinkedIn announcing IPO’s, to the proliferation of Social Media “strategists,” “gurus,” “experts,” and “ninjas.”
Indeed, it seems like this is less of a fad and more of a revolution. Customers have come to expect things like “transparency,” and “brand relationships,” which transcend the loyal but silent consumptive behaviors of their parents’ generation. If you want to truly connect with your customers, you need to get social, and do it right.
Social media is a huge topic, with as much minutiae and finesse as any other advertising medium – if not more. With all this buzz, there’s bound to be a lot of great information being discussed – and a lot of junk. Proper social media promotion takes a lot of thought and a lot of reflection on what your company represents and how you conduct business – and it’s not something you’ll get from any amount of reading. There are, however, some misconceptions and myths that you should toss aside before you even begin to develop a social media strategy. Here are 6 of my favorites.
“My Business Can’t Benefit From Social Media”
When I sit down with clients, especially those who try to play down the importance of social media in their industry, I have an exercise I like to walk them through. I challenge them to think of a company or an industry who can’t benefit from social media. I’ve yet to find one.Some Companies Who Are Getting It Right on Twitter Unless you are perhaps a government contractor with only one client, social media can help you. My rule goes: “If you have customers, you belong on Social Media.” If you don’t have customers, well… you’re not in business. Perhaps you are only in B2B, and Facebook is not particularly productive (though it can’t hurt). There is no reason you shouldn’t be on LinkedIn recruiting talented new people and strengthening the connections between your employees and the employees of the firms you work with. There is no reason you shouldn’t be on Twitter announcing pertinent company information in an effort to improve communication and decrease inefficiencies. Indeed, when one of my servers or software services is experiencing issues, I rarely call in anymore. I check Twitter, or tweet my difficulty. More often than not, I see a bit of news or receive a reply rectifying my issue. (See the image above where the good folks at Aliph Jawbone got in touch with me about a problem with my headset).
“Social Media is About Broadcasting”
No! social media is about Socializing. You wouldn’t hop on the phone with a customer and do 100% of the talking, so don’t expect it to be any different via social media. Twitter is very apt when they urge you to “join the conversation.” In order to be successful in your social media endeavors, you have to balance your press-release style broadcasts with listening, engaging, and interacting. Reply to people’s tweets and messages in a friendly and personable way. Share other people’s tweets and videos. For more information on this, I highly recommend reading The Cluetrain Manifesto. At under 7 pages, it is a fascinating plea by consumers, urging companies to participate in a new style of communication and promotion. It is also the framework upon which social media and internet commerce has evolved.
“Nobody Cares About the Boring Stuff We Do All Day”
Quite the contrary. A key element of the art is “transparency.” Transparency doesn’t just mean that Zuck’s conference room is a fish bowl (it is), it means that there is a rapidly eroding barrier between internal and external information. Customers love to see behind the scenes, even if it’s not professionally-produced contentSure, your company’s secrets will always be closely guarded – they should be. But sharing much of the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes information is not only appreciated by customers, it has become expected. I’ve done numerous reports in my businesses on “the making of” and “the people behind” specific products and product lines. When Apple, by far the most secretive company in the consumer market, begins releasing photos and videos of their testing facilities and production techniques, you know that the paradigm has shifted. People demand to see how their cars are made, who is designing their iPhones, and where their diamonds are being mined. Heck, BMW will even let you watch your car online as it’s being made.
“We Have to Maintain Our Polished Professionalism”
Not really. Though a certain threshold of professionalism and political-correctness always applies, Zappos.com has shown us that sharing your corporate culture, no matter how wacky and fun it is, is an important part of earning trust and legitimacy in your marketplace. Zappos.com shares ridiculous photos of bunk desks, Costumed keg parties, pets at work, and more.Weaved into the fabric of social media (and the basic human nature it represents) is an element of voyeurism. People want to feel included, and they want to be validated as loyal fans. The idea of a one-way relationship, where you buy TIDE brand bleach but TIDE has no clue who you are, is unnatural and outdated. Instead, customers want to see behind-the-scenes. They want photos of the team. They want to know when a notable figure visits your office. If your culture is open and funloving enough, this can extend pretty far; a company I work with once held a moustach-growing contest between it’s sales reps, with weekly updates. The customers loved the hilarious photos, and the sales reps were able to build stronger relationships with their clients.
“We Can Dedicate One Employee to Handle It For Us”
No way. Opening your business to social media means shifting the way your entire organization thinks. Though one person may manage the throughput and actual interaction (not recommended), the entire organization should be thinking in terms of social media. This is in line with the paradigm that every aspect of your company is in charge of marketing in some form, be it product quality, paying bills on time, or actually designing the ad campaigns. What this means is that your shipping department posts on Facebook when you ship to a new country, your wholesale department shares the content of their B2B clients, and your CEO has his own Twitter following.
“You Can’t Measure Your Success In Social Media”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, of all the mediums of advertising, social media is by far the most measurable. Just a few of the incredible metrics availableThere are dozens, maybe even hundreds of metrics by which you can determine your Return on Investment (ROI), growth, and more. On a basic level, you can count the followers, Likes, retweets, and comments. All of these things indicate growing success. You can track your visitors and conversions on Google Analytics. You can track your views and interactions through Facebook Insights. You can even measure your impact, influence, and trust factor with Klout. You can see how much your links are clicked and shared through services like ow.ly and bit.ly. There are many more tools, both free and paid, that can give you incredible statistics and reports on your Twitter or Facebook impact. Never before have you been able to see the measure and effect of your efforts – down to the dollar. It is no wonder social media is poised to replace print, radio, and television advertising
So get out there. Join the conversation. Get social and throw some of your caution to the wind. The costs are so incredibly low, and the potential returns are tremendous. And, If you need some help – that’s ok too. There are literally thousands of gurus who are happy to help, and more than likely, your college-age nieces and nephews are already social media experts in their own right.