Social Media is not Magic

Every few weeks, we receive an inquiry regarding the use of social media to improve a firm’s popularity or sales. And the expectation is always based on getting to the top of the mix. Let’s get this out of the way right now: social media is not medicine. You don’t employ it and receive results (not that medicine always works, either).

For organizations, notably smaller organizations that are not using social media, it as a whole provides a window of opportunity to a firm interested in better engaging with their employee, vendor, or customer bases. The problem is that too often, social media is not used properly, and the resulting miscues create a negative pushback or disconnection from the process.

One of the most common mistakes is not understanding what social media is really about. It may seem absurd, but it’s true – a lot of companies believe it’s the same as publishing an ad in a magazine. You do it and wait to see what happens. Typically, with this strategy, the results are consistent: nothing happens.

Imagine talking to someone across a table and when they start to reply, to start talking again. You’ll never hear what they have to say. Acting upon receipt of feedback is the crux of how your firm can benefit from the use of social media. Creating an open dialog, especially when working with Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media means answering those questions, those comments, and taking the info received and turning it into what it’s supposed to be: PR, Market Research, Produce Development, and Branding.

I’ve heard comments that include: “We don’t have the bandwidth to support social media.” I am guilty of this myself. When we’ve been very busy, we have in the past reduced our activities, and with sour results. Some of the fastest growing start-ups or service organizations have a single person creating content, responding, acting, and creating. It takes organized involvement, not an army to use the environment effectively.

When I ask about metrics – “how are your social media metrics doing?” I’m often met with a blank stare. Comments and trackbacks are only two methods of managing what your social media activities are doing. Ongoing evaluation of analytics is very important when working to determine how your efforts are paying off. What do you need to change? Why? When?

No plan is stagnant. The world of social media is a bullet train without a destination. Things are constantly changing. To properly understand how to use the environment, you either need to climb on board yourself, or you need an expert whom you trust to ride the train. Create a plan that includes this week, next, and up to next month. And then, review it and evolve. Most importantly, stick to the plan, but allow flexibility in the tactics.

Most importantly, when working in the social media environment, keep it fresh. New content that makes sense is highly important to the overall ability to engage your audience. If you add a new blog entry once a quarter, don’t expect people to pay attention. And don’t blog for the sake of blogging. There is a ton of noise out there. People recognize BS when they read it. Surely there’s plenty to say about your service or product, so stick to issues that your customers will be interested in.

Creating and managing a strong social media campaign is actually easier than you might think. But it requires the same level of consistency as getting up, leaving the house, and going to work requires. You’ve got to do it every day.

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