Why social media is not about Social Media

Sydney Harbour Bridge crowded with onlookers during the water and aerial display, 19 March 1932

How many of you have read Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li?

I have a copy of the original edition.

It is excellent.

However, as much as it pains me to say, the social media ‘debate’ hasn’t moved on much since the book was published.

In fact, up until recently, when I culled a significant number of my feeds to Google Reader, all I was receiving was post after post about social media. And not the type that helped me understand the bridge-building capability of the paradigm, but, rather, the type that just told me, week after week, about the latest nuance to this and that social media platform.

In truth, I am not that interested in the wizardry of the social media platforms.

It is a road to nowhere, and given my location in the world, I will be forever chasing my tail if I think I can stay ahead of the curve.

In Groundswell Messrs Bernoff and Li adopt the P.O.S.T. acronym, which is still the best way to view to social media:

P – People

O – Objectives

S – Strategy

T – Technology

I not only use this in my own social media endeavours, but it is something that I refer to constantly when speaking or consulting.

I never start with the platforms save to highlight the fact that they are not social media. As trite as it may sound, social media is built on generating engagement. No one is going to compliment you on your use of Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite.

If you have ventured forth on the social media path then you should have worked out where your clients gather or the proclivity of your tribe to consume content in one form as opposed to another. If you haven’t don’t waste your time experimenting, ask them.

Your firm has certain objectives.

The stand out candidate is revenue.

You may not be able to say with any degree of accuracy how many clients that means but you will have a fair idea. You can look at the historical data, and even allowing for the increase in hourly rates, you will be able to work the average billing per client. That will give you a number.

And so, where then does social media fit in?

Is it going to replace some of those clients for less cost than your other marketing efforts?

Or do you see it as a new business generator?

I have heard many people talk about brand awareness. But being aware counts for nothing if there is no call to action.

When I started my business, I thought the trick would be to aspire to be the most well read, thoughtful and knowledgeable in my sector, but my emphasis  very quickly changed. People, for all the novelty factor, are not that interested in the tools. They want to know how to build bridges with their clients, referrers and those that are likely to scale their efforts.

Of course, I still offer the odd LinkedIn course, but what I am focused on is enabling you to make a difference to your practice, and something that, ideally, can be measured absent a sophisticated tool like Radian6 or Alterian.

This means focusing on:

1. Excellence

2. Creating remarkable content

3. Understanding the competitive landscape

4. Thinking about Brand You

5. Involving your marketing efforts with social media

6. Aligning your firm’s objectives with your social media efforts

7. Considering the platforms where your clients are likely to congregate

8. Making sure you focus on the execution and not the discussion

9. Developing a mindset that is open to change

10. Showing the importance of your website – if that is the place you have chosen to syndicate your content

If you think social media is about LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook then you are deluded. Your clients couldn’t care less about these platforms. What they care about is how your service helps them.

Next time you hear someone talk about social media, you need to understand how the latest evolution of Twitter or LinkedIn is going to make a difference to your clients.

Meeting them.

Understanding their needs.

And offering a brilliant solution will count for more than any amount of Tweets.

All things being equal people do business with people they know, like and trust, and that is where you should focus. In my world, social media might help with the ‘know you’ but most clients will still want to meet you before they can make an informed decision to buy your services.

I am not about to turn my back on social media but next time someone tells me about this new, fantastic platform, I will simply ask them to show me the money. Who, or how many people, have built and sustained a remarkable business using that platform?

30 Responses to “Why social media is not about Social Media”

  1. Hi Julian,

    You’re right, it’s too easy to forget that social media is a tool (for businesses). It’s not a goal (unless your goal is to occupy social media)…

    Thanks for reminding me of that ;)

  2. Hi Julian,

    You’re right, it’s too easy to forget that social media is a tool (for businesses). It’s not a goal (unless your goal is to occupy social media)…

    Thanks for reminding me of that ;)

  3. Chris Nadeau says:

    Bang on Julian! I really think social media is an “opportunity”. Not a be all, end all sort of thing.

    The challenge is figuring out how you can integrate it with your business processes so that you can offer value to your customers and improve your customer lifetime value with your biz.

    Great to see you mention Radian6. They are a local company in my neck of the woods.

    Nice post!

  4. Chris Nadeau says:

    Bang on Julian! I really think social media is an “opportunity”. Not a be all, end all sort of thing.

    The challenge is figuring out how you can integrate it with your business processes so that you can offer value to your customers and improve your customer lifetime value with your biz.

    Great to see you mention Radian6. They are a local company in my neck of the woods.

    Nice post!

  5. Amanda, Radian6 Community Manager says:

    Thanks for including Radian6 in your post. You make a lot of great points! It’s true that with social media, like anything else, proof of its effectiveness and worth is important for businesses to see and understand. What are some KPIs that you recommend? — Amanda, Radian6 Community Manager

    • Julian Summerhayes says:

      Probably high up on my list would be the number of face to face meetings arranged or organized. In the world of professional services, save for the on-line providers, business is done that way. Thereafter, I would want to look at the amount of engagement and the number of people within my network. All pretty basic stuff. What would you look for?

      Julian

  6. Amanda, Radian6 Community Manager says:

    Thanks for including Radian6 in your post. You make a lot of great points! It’s true that with social media, like anything else, proof of its effectiveness and worth is important for businesses to see and understand. What are some KPIs that you recommend? — Amanda, Radian6 Community Manager

    • Julian Summerhayes says:

      Probably high up on my list would be the number of face to face meetings arranged or organized. In the world of professional services, save for the on-line providers, business is done that way. Thereafter, I would want to look at the amount of engagement and the number of people within my network. All pretty basic stuff. What would you look for?

      Julian

  7. I think the allure of the potential that social media outlets have to offer drives the masses to put in a lot of time, energy, and thought into how they want to make it work for them.

    Behind the scenes, as you mentioned, there has to be a message or solution. You could spawn tens of thousands of people to your site, but when they land, what are they going to see and would they want to keep sharing or spreading the word?

    I believe if we make a difference, we make an impact, and the numbers will follow. Great article.

  8. I think the allure of the potential that social media outlets have to offer drives the masses to put in a lot of time, energy, and thought into how they want to make it work for them.

    Behind the scenes, as you mentioned, there has to be a message or solution. You could spawn tens of thousands of people to your site, but when they land, what are they going to see and would they want to keep sharing or spreading the word?

    I believe if we make a difference, we make an impact, and the numbers will follow. Great article.

  9. Holy s***, Julian!

    One of the best, most fantastic, eye-opening things I’ve read about social media.

    Your focus on the root principles feels powerful.

    Social Media is simply an evolution of a timeless, success-principles.

    Engagement… Connection… Relationship.. . Service.

    BAM. Love it :) The world can benefit from more content like this — keep doing your thing.

  10. Holy s***, Julian!

    One of the best, most fantastic, eye-opening things I’ve read about social media.

    Your focus on the root principles feels powerful.

    Social Media is simply an evolution of a timeless, success-principles.

    Engagement… Connection… Relationship.. . Service.

    BAM. Love it :) The world can benefit from more content like this — keep doing your thing.

  11. Paul Jun says:

    Exactly.

    I’m going to give that book a read as well, thanks for sharing.

    Social media has its use and purposes. It’s an important tool for businesses of any kind, and knowing how to wisely and effectively use it is something to consider.

  12. Paul Jun says:

    Exactly.

    I’m going to give that book a read as well, thanks for sharing.

    Social media has its use and purposes. It’s an important tool for businesses of any kind, and knowing how to wisely and effectively use it is something to consider.

  13. Lee Taylor says:

    Fascinating article and really hits home the message.

    Some people view social media the be all and end all of marketing. One click of the tweet button and that’s it. Job done.

    Far from it. It is so much more than that.

    Social media is about being social but behind that social media is also a person. A living, breathing person!

    So treat them like it, get to know them, understand them and ultimately find out how your service can help them.

    As you quite rightly point out, people buy from people / brands they know, like and trust. 3 key factors that should form part of any business strategy.

    Forget that and you can forget about building any kind of relationship with your client

  14. Lee Taylor says:

    Fascinating article and really hits home the message.

    Some people view social media the be all and end all of marketing. One click of the tweet button and that’s it. Job done.

    Far from it. It is so much more than that.

    Social media is about being social but behind that social media is also a person. A living, breathing person!

    So treat them like it, get to know them, understand them and ultimately find out how your service can help them.

    As you quite rightly point out, people buy from people / brands they know, like and trust. 3 key factors that should form part of any business strategy.

    Forget that and you can forget about building any kind of relationship with your client

  15. Jeanne Pi says:

    Far too often, the focus is on the medium rather than the objective behind the engagement. Most posts about social media platforms cater to the lowest common denominator. They answer the “how”, but not the “why”.

    Businesses need to understand the underpinnings of social media in order to truly harness the potential of social networks.

    Smule is a great example of a company who understood and successfully built their products specifically with social networking and user engagement in mind. Their iPhone app, Sonic Lighter, went viral through the strategic inclusion of social features.

    It’s not about social media platforms. It’s about tapping into a customer’s innate desire to connect with others and leveraging that into a successful product or service. And the mobile apps market is at the forefront of exploiting users’ desire to be social by building social components into their apps.

    Anyway, here’s a great TechCrunch write-up about Smule in case you’re interested: http://techcrunch.com/2008/09/26/what-is-the-deal-with-this-stupid-lighter-iphone-app/.

  16. Jeanne Pi says:

    Far too often, the focus is on the medium rather than the objective behind the engagement. Most posts about social media platforms cater to the lowest common denominator. They answer the “how”, but not the “why”.

    Businesses need to understand the underpinnings of social media in order to truly harness the potential of social networks.

    Smule is a great example of a company who understood and successfully built their products specifically with social networking and user engagement in mind. Their iPhone app, Sonic Lighter, went viral through the strategic inclusion of social features.

    It’s not about social media platforms. It’s about tapping into a customer’s innate desire to connect with others and leveraging that into a successful product or service. And the mobile apps market is at the forefront of exploiting users’ desire to be social by building social components into their apps.

    Anyway, here’s a great TechCrunch write-up about Smule in case you’re interested: http://techcrunch.com/2008/09/26/what-is-the-deal-with-this-stupid-lighter-iphone-app/.

  17. Ryan Hanley says:

    You mean what we write about on social media is supposed to be something other than social media?

    Nooooooo!

    Julian – Absolutely completely agree with everything you’ve said here dude. At some point you have to actually do the business you talk about.

    Thanks!!

    Ryan H.

  18. Ryan Hanley says:

    You mean what we write about on social media is supposed to be something other than social media?

    Nooooooo!

    Julian – Absolutely completely agree with everything you’ve said here dude. At some point you have to actually do the business you talk about.

    Thanks!!

    Ryan H.

  19. Dick Foster says:

    I totally agree with you that social media is not Facebook, Twitter, HootSuite, etc.. They are tools we can use to implement and measure our social media strategy.

    A company’s “social media” strategy should be developed based on the products or services they sell, the customer persona, and the business objectives.

    Social media is certainly an important factor — you have elements of it included in five of your ten focus areas. Many companies are new to social media. So, as you say, they need to be educated that there is more to social media than the tools/platforms.

    Good info. Thanks!

  20. Dick Foster says:

    I totally agree with you that social media is not Facebook, Twitter, HootSuite, etc.. They are tools we can use to implement and measure our social media strategy.

    A company’s “social media” strategy should be developed based on the products or services they sell, the customer persona, and the business objectives.

    Social media is certainly an important factor — you have elements of it included in five of your ten focus areas. Many companies are new to social media. So, as you say, they need to be educated that there is more to social media than the tools/platforms.

    Good info. Thanks!

  21. Richard Gore says:

    Good stuff. Very interesting and sums up the principles as far as I am concerned.

    Being relatively new to the social media buzz I need to keep my eye on what it is about and this is a great help.

    Thank you

    • Julian Summerhayes says:

      Thanks Richard. The P.O.S.T. acronym is a great diagnostic to keep your efforts on track. If you can get your clients to engage around remarkable content then so much the better.

  22. Richard Gore says:

    Good stuff. Very interesting and sums up the principles as far as I am concerned.

    Being relatively new to the social media buzz I need to keep my eye on what it is about and this is a great help.

    Thank you

    • Julian Summerhayes says:

      Thanks Richard. The P.O.S.T. acronym is a great diagnostic to keep your efforts on track. If you can get your clients to engage around remarkable content then so much the better.

  23. Rana Shahbaz says:

    Agreed with Julian.

    To me social media is a tool like e-mail, fax, post but has a lot quicker and bigger reach.

    It does not matter what tool (Twitter, Facebook, Google + etc) you are using to achieve your objectives instead how you are using it.

  24. Rana Shahbaz says:

    Agreed with Julian.

    To me social media is a tool like e-mail, fax, post but has a lot quicker and bigger reach.

    It does not matter what tool (Twitter, Facebook, Google + etc) you are using to achieve your objectives instead how you are using it.

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