What does social media really mean?

“It’s simple: there are tribes everywhere now, inside and outside of organisations, in public and private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of those tribes is yearning for leadership and connection. This is an opportunity for you – an opportunity to find or assemble a tribe and lead it. The question isn’t, Is it possible for me to do that? Now, the question is, Will I choose to do it?”

Seth Godin, Tribes

I have repeatedly called in aid the acronym P.O.S.T. from the book Groundswell.

P – People

O – Objectives

S – Strategy

T – Technology

But, try as a I might, I nearly always, when speaking or consulting on social media, get drawn to offer up my opinion on the next big thing – Pinterest or Path being the current flavour of the last few months.

Frankly, who cares!

Whatever platform it is, you don’t own it.

And, more worryingly, you have chosen to plant your flag when you haven’t even worked out whether any of your people are likely to congregate and adopt your material syndicated across the platform (even the obvious candidate LinkedIn gets scant attention – save for those wretched Tweets that get posted with such abandon).

Of course, you might have read some recent research that suggests a age-specific demographic, and that has swayed you one way or another, but the truth of the matter is you don’t have a clue why you have chosen one platform over another.

My niche is professional service firms (PSFs). They are in the laggard camp when it comes to social media (see Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore). Laggard in the sense that: (a) they are slow to embrace the platforms – any platforms; (b) they have trouble seeing how their web presence can improve their retention rate/new client wins/revenue; and (c) they operate in a market where selling is an anathema to many (word of mouth still rules the roost).

For me the starting point is to ask, which Tribe am I expecting to lead?

In professional service terms, there are far too many lookalike firms. Just having a few widgets here… there … and over there, makes not a jot of difference if, and it’s an important if, your service offering is no different – bland, blander, blandest (you decide).

If people are going to find you and hang around, they need to be persuaded by dint of something remarkable. If all you are offering is the latest repackaged news that you have bought in (along with a hundred other firms) then how on earth can you expect to mark your presence? Moreover, unless you are focused at the end of the long tail, where the competition is non-existent, you have to face the fact that your problem solving skills – the technical wizardry – will be two-a-penny. If that is right, then how likely is it that you will be able to convince and convert any new fans?

This means you have to innovate with your service offering (Q. which firm has a full time R&D department?) not platform hop, get better and be prepared to fail. Of course, you could do worse than ask your clients what they want or use a survey tool like Survey Monkey.

Surely, the overriding question has to be what would make you use us?

Is it your Tweets?

Your regular posts to Facebook?

Or the flavour and content of your blogs?


The point is too many firms have established a social media presence without considering the Why (in any detail).

Why social media as opposed to cutting back on the number of files your fee earners handle in the hope (fingers crossed) that your service and quality will improve. You might even be able to cut out all those complaints about the costs, if you decided on fixed fees for everything or pay us what you think it’s worth.

I recognise that this message might not chime with my passion for social media implementation, but until you have worked out what you are going to do with all that noise you are making – conversion is surely #1 – then I would stick with the knitting or sharpen the saw (sorry for the mixing of my principles from Messrs Peters and Covey).

In the end social media is a communications suite of platforms that bring you closer to your client cohort. It is not a substitute for excellence in service delivery, great content, amazing copyrighting skills and people in your midst that are a pleasure to deal with. In fact, if you are not careful, social media could end up shining a light on those aspects that you wish would rather stay hidden from public view.

My suspicion is that social media is perceived as a cheap substitute for marketing – look we are doing something on zero budget – but without a clear vision for the firm, values that you would die for and business development that is focused on getting results, social media will, in time, go the way of the website.

Ahh the website – the platform that no one really understands or has time for.


If you have or expect to embrace social media, go back to basics and think P.O.S.T. Who are the people internally that are best suited to engage externally? What are the objectives? Are they measurable? If not, don’t default to eyeballs unless you have some concrete way to covert those real people into paying clients. Your strategy has to be focused on the fail faster mantra – not as in getting sued quicker – but testing your content ideas amongst a small cohort, acting on the feedback and getting better. And lastly, use a platform that matches your demographic, but importantly has enough likely clients in the vicinity to make the idea of a network worth developing.

Related posts

Will Social Media will go the way of the website?

Social Media is not the end …

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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