the social media cul-de-sac

Have you reached the end of the social media road?

No, I don’t mean you have given up – many have – I mean, have you run out ideas?

Here are a few primers that might help:

#1 – Is my content boring?

Content gets talked about like the weather. But, truthfully, when was the last time you alighted upon a blog post, video or free download that was gasp-worthy?

We all know that the Internet is bathed in information upon information – any search on Google rarely turns up less than 1 million+ hits – but so much of it is useless, and often out of date.

Go back and look at you best blog posts, the Tweets that were Re-Tweeted most or the videos that elicited the most comments – good or bad. Some may be out of date to garner much intelligence, but, if nothing else, it will give you confidence to believe that it wasn’t just beginner’s luck.

Even if you don’t have enough content to undertake this exercise, don’t be afraid to look at other more successful sites and see what they are doing that regularly gives rise to engagement (Google Reader is a great tool for automatically finding new sites).

I am  not suggesting that you adopt the cookie-cutter approach to social media, but the tone, content and imaging can be of assistance in understanding why your material might just be falling wide of the mark.

#2 – Get off your (sales) soapbox

Some of you may disagree, but too many people revert to the same sales-led topics week in, week out. Don’t be afraid to mix things up:

(a) ask questions;

(b) talk about something topical;

(c) ask for feedback;

(d) try a mash up of media;

(e) think about guest posts or interviews transcribed into a blog post.

#3 – Do less

You may want to look at Google analytics before you plunge the knife into a few of your sites, but how many do you really need?

I have noticed that certain sites like Stumbleupon, Posterous and Quora rarely get a mention these days, and whilst that may not be enough for some aficionados, my advice is to focus on much fewer platforms than try to cover all the social media bases.

#4 – Does your culture fit?

Let’s face it, the ‘old’ command ‘n’ control model doesn’t work terribly well with the open, transparent cultural norm that is social media. It’s no good expecting things to scale if you have limited resources, and only one person to drive things forward. I am not suggesting that you go for the free-for-all approach, with no limits whatsoever on what people can do, but social becomes a whole lot easier if everyone has the same capability. It still amazes me how few businesses get this. Some are still in the dark ages where they don’t allow any social media engagement – not even LinkedIn – and others think it should all be carefully, carefully managed. Far from me to tell you how to run your business, but social is a people thing (yes it bears repeating), and I have no intention of talking with a … erm… brand!

Leadership also is critical. If those running the show don’t get it, and are prepared to invest their time in developing a presence then what chance do you have in changing the culture to fit?

#5 – Spend, spend, spend

I think we have passed the point where the wrapper ‘it’s free’ has dropped off the radar; but I bet there will still be some command and control folk who don’t believe that social warrants any or any meaningful investment. I say this on the back of a dearth of talks that I have given where I have been asked about the ROI, only to enquire how many people have invested in social media monitoring tools. I only recall one delegate to date who worked for a well know insurance company indicating they had their own suite of tools to understand what was going on.

Here is a link to Ken Burbary’s Wiki listing the many social media monitoring options. Before you decide to invest, though, you still need to work out your objectives, otherwise you could end up measuring the wrong metrics.

The thing if you need the justification for social media, it may be a chicken and egg situation, and it may well be that Google insights etc. are simply not enough to convince the Board/owners that the investment is worth the candle.

#6 – Make it a priority

I have shown this video before. If social media is a priority then it must be unequivocally made a priority. There is no point saying to people ‘We have to get good at this stuff [whatever the hell that means]’, and then expecting people to do it on their own time, or when they can sneak it in between other more pressing (or so you say) business.

I come from a background where every morsel of time was managed and squeezed. But rarely, if ever, did I get credit for going off-grid, using my initiative, and recording something that was obviously not chargeable but could in time make a difference to my practice and the business. ‘Bread upon the waters’ as one of my old bosses would say. Social is no different.

#7 – Have some fun

OK, may be this is ever-so-slightly tongue in cheek, but if it feels like hard work then that is how it will be perceived. You have to lighten up – not whimsical – but you have to be prepared to show that you have a human side to you or the business.

People want to deal with people who are human, approachable and good natured. If you hide behind corporate speak all the time then you will feel stiff and look like the rest of the crowd.

If you feel uncomfortable about letting down your guard then don’t. By all means talk it through with the lawyers or the risk avoidance crowd, but sometimes you have to go with your gut and post something because you have to.

Summary

I have said it before and I will say it again, don’t be afraid to question everything about social. There is no perfect science, and what works for one business or person may have a slim if any chance of working for you. Follow your gut, stay passionate and if you feel like you need a break tell people why you are going off grid for a while. They will understand. The worst thing you can do is back yourself into a cul-de-sac and keep your foot on the gas. Sooner or later something will break.

Working with me

I am available for speaking, consulting and one on one coaching. Please feel free to email me at juliansummerhayes@gmail.com or contact me on 075888 15384.

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