Is This Thing On?

So here’s a stream of consciousness post about why your company doesn’t need a social media marketing campaign.

Let’s be clear about one thing: social-media is digital communication.

It’s all of it, from blogs and Facebook,mobile-phones and postcards, to email and text-messages. Social media includes any medium that allows people to talk to people. It’s a funny thing. Most would argue that only web-based tools qualify as social media, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. Wherever people swap ideas, opinions and facts, that’s a social media platform.

Currently, it’s all the rage for companies to get involved in social media and engage with their consumers. The approaches to social media engagement can generally be split into two: positive and negative.

Negative engagement is setting up a visible presence (like a Facebook page) for a one-sided conversation by fans or critics of the brand. It’s the more cautious approach and sadly, the more favoured approach not only by social media experts, but also by brands that don’t really have much to say or offer in the way of value to their consumers. And while it’s great for collecting compliments, the lack of active involvement by the brand makes it difficult to respond to less-than-stellar comments. I think of this as the insincere approach to social media. Brands that do this are just there to say they did – so they can say it didn’t work for them.

Positive engagement is a full-on commitment to engaging and responding to your consumers’ contributions to the conversation around your brand. It’s not just setting up a blog or site for conversations – it’s joining the conversation on other platforms. And this means doing more than just leaving a form-response on sites where these conversations are happening. It means contacting the commentor directly, maybe even publicly, especially in the case of a negative comment. This means investing in people who are skilled in marketing, PR and most importantly, customer service.

Note: I said “marketing” not “social marketing”. You don’t need a “social marketing expert.”. A good marketing or PR professional can make any platform work to your brand’s advantage.

Ok, so how does all add up to you not needing to be in social media?

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock (or busy sucking on sushi in your corner office with your back to your office floor) you already know that your customers, consumers and clients are already there. They’re already talking about you, saying what they want to say, be it good or bad.

And no amount of flashy social-media campaigning is going to change the bad into good…unless (and you’re really going hate to this part) you switch your mindset from profits to people. Essentially, social media marketing is about customer service: listening and responding effectively to your consumers’ requests and complaints, so they can go off and market you.

That means starting on your shop floor, office floor, front door – anywhere your clients are going to meet your business – and doing everything you can to make sure they walk away smiling – whether it’s innovating in their direction or finally spending a little extra to fix that broken bench in your reception area. Better still, throw out the bench and buy some armchairs.

It’s not the popular thing to say. There are people out there who will tell you that a Facebook page can fix your problems. They’re wrong. You need to do all that stuff mentioned in the previous two paragraphs first.

And as tempting as it may be, you’re not allowed to tell anyone you’re doing it.

Actually, that’s worth saying again: don’t tell anyone you’re making a change. If you do, it’s like saying that your brand has done nothing for its consumers since it’s been in existence. That may not be true, but that’s the perception – and it’s one you can avoid, if you keep your mouth shut.

That’s the slight of hand when it comes to social-media: don’t actively market your brand in the social media channels at all. At least, not with the traditional broadcast tactics. Let people discover for themselves why you’re the best thing since the best thing since sliced bread and let them tell your story.

Ask yourself if it’s easier trying to convince everyone how cool you are, or having someone else tell everyone how cool you are? It’s High School popularity 101. And at all times be humble, be aware, be pro-active…

STILL NOT CONVINCED?

That’s fine. If you’re prepared to have huge 18k spotlights shone into every nook and cranny of your business, then go ahead and spend huge amounts of money on that social media marketing campaign.

But do me a favour: before you go all flashing-lights and huge launches, go covert.

Use shadow-accounts to search Twitter to get a reading on your brand’s temperature. Get onto Facebook and do your homework – find the people who are raving or ranting about your brand. Google your brand and go past the 5th page of results. Gather up all the information you need to make the changes your brand needs before throwing the switch on your social-media marketing campaign.

Common sense, right? You’d be surprised.

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