Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Not So Fast.....

I'm a big pro-social media person.

This website along with 3 others I update around 50 times a week are blog websites which is one of the early forms of social media.

But I also know the danger of jumping out of something and into something else without understanding what you are doing.

There has been a big social media marketing push the past few years and some businesses thought it would replace traditional advertising and marketing.

Not So Fast....

Social Media Can't Save You!

There's an epidemic taking place. Brands big and small are rushing into social media. In many cases, several months down the road they find themselves disappointed with the results and disenchanted with social media in general.

Case in point: I was recently speaking at a conference to a full auditorium of marketers. I asked how many of them were doing some degree of social media marketing. Most of the hands in the audience went up. The next question was, "How many of you are disappointed with the response you're getting." Again, most of the hands in the room were raised. And this is usually the case. I can't tell you how many other businesses I speak to that have a basic Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed and not a lot of love or money to show for it.

The Medium Isn't the Problem

It's my experience however, that these problems rarely have much to do with the value or effectiveness of social media. In most cases, the problem is that brands simply aren't in shape for social media in the first place. They lack definition, position and purpose. Their story is lackluster and their consumer value nebulous. In some cases, internal communication is so poor that it makes outward communication almost impossible.

Here's the thing. Social media is not a modifier, it's an amplifier. It doesn't change your brand's voice; it just turns the volume up to eleven. If your brand has nothing to say -- no story to tell, social media will only amplify the uncomfortable silence. If your culture lacks fluid and open communication, your discomfort and awkwardness in engaging followers will come through loud and clear. If your brand value proposition isn't obvious, your social media messages will be confused and only muddy the waters further.

The result will be that every tweet, post and update aimed at building community around your brand will simply confuse, disenfranchise and disappoint more potential followers. You will un-market yourself into oblivion.

The Social Media Breathalyzer

Breathalyzers can be installed in the ignition systems of cars to prevent drunk driving. It's too bad we don't have the same kind of apparatus available before starting social media programs. In lieu of something more sophisticated, here's a very simple brand sobriety test. If you fail, don't turn the key on social media!

  • If you didn't work for your brand, would you care that it existed?
  • Do you have a product or service story to tell that people should even give a damn about? Something that excites, inspires, or entertains?
  • Can you articulate your unique value in one or two short sentences without using jargon?
  • Will what you share with people be so valuable, interesting or remarkable that they will not only notice it, but also enthusiastically share it with others?
If you don't have solid answers to these 4 basic questions, then social media won't save you. In fact, it might hurt you. Fix the brand first.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of The Thank You Economy, recently said, "There's more original content created today in 48 hours than there was from the beginning of time until 2003." In other words, before you tap customers on the shoulder, you better have something valuable to say.

(Source: Doug Stephens, Retail Prophet Consulting, 03/22/11)

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