I was checking out Livingston’s blog and he drew my attention to an article from Jason Baer of Convince and Convert and thought it was a great piece that deserved some additional attention (apparently so did 50+ other people as evidenced in the comments section). Jason lists six fallacies of social media and explains as to why they are false. There are good and bad points to his arguments, and I’d like to delve further into his analysis.
1. Social Media & Social Media Tools Are Inexpensive
They are generally open source and shareable. Monitoring is free (unless you use a professional tool). I agree that engaging in effective social media campaigns is extremely time consuming (and therein lies the cost). Factor in hours of research, diving into communities, participating, commenting, reading, reading, and more reading. To ease the pain, consultants and agencies embracing social media as a tactic to add to their overall PR and marketing counsel should develop strategies and clear tactics. Develop clear metrics to determine viable and influential sources. Work hard, work smart, work strategically. Over time, you will identify methods of searching and pulling out the best information for your client or company’s goals, while saving valuable time and endless hours searching through infinite web content.
2. Social Media is Fast
Social media IS fast. It takes mere seconds for a blog post to go up about your company or client, for comments and responses and conversations to take place about your brand. Without effectively monitoring and participating in relevant communities, it’s very easy for things to quickly get out of hand (especially in a situation with an unhappy customer or other crisis).
Getting yourself out there is fast. It’s the follow-up and overall social network engagement that is slow. However, if you have the right research in place from the start and know exactly what people you need to contact for your client or company’s business goals; it can go a lot faster. Spending time reading and contributing to 100 social networks and blogs where only 20-50 of them may be extremely relevant is time consuming. Focusing on just those 20-50 and hitting them hard makes a lot more sense.
3. Social Media is “Viral Marketing”
Social media, at the core, is viral. It allows for interactive conversation. Blog posts, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Utterli…all these sites provide easy ways for your content to be shared and discussed.
Whether it’s a blog post or a video, the first thing to remember is that viral material starts with great content. If the content is clever AND meaningful, it will spread like wildfire. However, just because something is socialized and has gone “viral” does not mean it will necessarily have the desired outcome. Take Sarah Silverman’s “The Great Schelp” video. Viral, yes. Results, eh.
4. Social Media results can’t be measured
Social media can be measured. Like any metric the ROI is determined by the relation to the company or client’s goals. Is it sales? Is it media coverage? Is it brand reputation or recognition?
Let’s take reputation management for example. A company that is seeing multiple online conversation from unhappy customers through a high percentage of negative blog posts, Twitter updates, and message board comments has a problem. After a few months of addressing those issues directly, participating in conversations, offering customer service support, and providing value to those communities…the negative discussions decrease. That’s a social media campaign result every company would like to see. Just ask Comcast or Dell.
5. Social Media is optional
Chances are your company or client is being discussed online. But, before deciding to engage in a social media campaign simply because of that fact, consider your audience. Your audience may be online, but that does not mean they are on Facebook, on Twitter, or commenting on message boards and blogs.
It’s more important to make establishing an online brand and persona part of your business plan, a necessary part. As Andrea mentioned yesterday, a web presence is a must for any business. It’s time to stop thinking about whether or not to go online. Instead, start considering what is already being said online about your company or client. Take that knowledge and manage your online brand, whether you choose to use social media tools or not.
6. Social media is hard
Without the correct research, clear goals and strategy in mind, social media is hard and overwhelmingly complex. However, it’s not hard when you erase all the technical jargon and consider that the main benefit of engaging in social media comes down to the “humanization” factor of your company or client.
Social media is an extension of community involvement. It involves seeking out community members that share your interests and passions. It’s about talking to them, learning from them, getting to know them. It’s about connecting with them and joining together for a common cause. It’s about sharing your view with others, and listening to theirs.
The only difference between those ideas for community involvement and social media, is that these conversations and connections are taking place online. Participation and authenticity in personal relationships is easy to translate online if you change the way you think about it. There goes the neighborhood.