The Holy Grail of Social Media (What Is?)

Hardly an original title. But I feel, at the moment, that nearly everyone I meet, knowing of my (insane) passion for social media, expects me to say that by engaging with the various channels, platforms (Twitter being the most popular), and media that KER-POW!! out will pop:

  1. A new business (you know the caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly trilogy…);
  2. A zillion bucks in sales (or even a modicum of in/direct sales);
  3. A pack of qualified leads – “Give me more of your product”!
  4. Great customer engagement;
  5. A stack of referrers talking up the product or service offering; and
  6. A sizeable slice of self-appreciation from within the company (“You are such a fantastic person – how could we do without you?”).

When I start to unpick some of the hyperbole (we lawyers have a terrible habit of looking for the holes – not Alice in Wonderland stuff but more the ones that trip you up when you least expect it), I get some really quizzical expressions as if:

“Well no one has said that before”.

Let me give you a few examples to illustrate my point.

I am routinely asked about Twitter. And, for those who don’t immediately dismiss it as a complete waste of time (and yes they do exist), the usual misconception is that Followers = Attention = Referrals = Revenue (and in abundance).

Or, I have a loads of friends on Facebook but half of them I don’t know, and what am I supposed to do with them to sell my product or service offering?

This mindset is completely understandable. We have for a very long time been conditioned to believing that sales or referral generation is a Numbers Game; or as David Meerman Scott has eulogised about, we have got into the habit of believing that revenue can be generated in one of three ways:

  1. We can buy attention;
  2. We can beg for attention; or
  3. We can bug for attention (this is the classic direct marketing, email or direct mail approach).

In my time in recruitment, I well remember the Managing Director and myself stuffing a gazillion envelopes with CV profiles to a myriad of businesses (the taste of licking the envelopes lingered for days…), and our assumption was that if we can get 1 interview for a candidate we had hit the mark; and if we got more than 2 or 3 then it was like winning at Bingo (there was plenty of whooping and shouting).

When I talk to people about applying a slightly more forensic approach or, dare I say, a strategic one, it feels like I am talking in a long lost language. Or worse still I am simply swimming against the tidal wave of popular opinion.

Why?

Well the reason is that most people have been so taken in with the genre and use (or misuse!) of the platforms that they have forgotten to apply some good old fashioned business thinking. In a nutshell a plan, campaign or strategy.

Why is that no one has bothered to put in place a blueprint before the process of engagement starts? It goes back to the rather trite expression that you need to have a map before you can find where you are going. [May be not quite so apposite now in the Google maps era but you hopefully get the point.]

Social Media (or whatever label you wish to apply) is, in my view, no different to any other aspect of your business. Yes it may feel more fluid, engaging and immediate but you need to think carefully what you want to (not need to) get out of it. For me, it is still an evolving or possibly exploding genre (paradigm shift seems a little 1980s) but it does not obviate the real possibility that without a definite strategy you could find yourself quickly disengaging.

If I have one plea from this post then it is to stand back from the drive to engage and just think one simple point:

“What do I want to get out of social media?”

If you can answer that question in 140 characters or less then you have probably achieved a lot more than most. Keeping that goal in mind you then need to consider the same sort of approach that the Japanese behemoths like Sony and Panasonic did in the 1980s: softly softly …. Yes if you are not in for the long haul then I fear that you will be sadly disappointed. You also need to consider that you may have started down the road of a cultural revolution within your business where the messaging, PR and marketing is no longer centrally controlled but there is a definite bottom up drive; not a rock the boat feel but an innate sense of giving people a voice – a powerful voice at that.