Thursday, December 2, 2010

3 Social Media Practices That Make Me Itch

Last night I went to a fun get-together with other social media practitioners and of course, after talking about what we keep in the trunks of our cars and sharing pictures of some people’s cats – I even got to (virtually) meet a cat by the name of Tubby Johnson -, we landed on the topic of social media. The conversation started something like this: “You know what my least favorite word is these days?!”, and everyone in our small group offered his or her least favorite word describing social media or used in social media. I only offered one word at dinner but here are my top 3 least liked words, or better yet, practices. Not because I don’t like these words in general but because of how they are used in social media.

3. Isolation

Social media should not be done in a vacuum, it should serve a higher purpose and it should be an integral part of your other activities. It should be tied to and driven by your overall business objectives. If an activity does not support your objective, ask yourself if it really deserves the time and attention you’re giving to it. Probably not. Social media should also be integrated into your other marketing, PR, customer service, HR, etc tactics and not used as a standalone effort.

2. Campaigns

Until we come up with a better term, I’m going to stick with this. As practitioners, we need to stop talking about social campaigns and start talking about social presence or engagement or something along those lines. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the word “campaign” as it stands. What makes me raise my eyebrows is when all people do is use social for their campaigns, programs or events. When considering adding a social component to your campaign, ask yourself how you’re going to keep the momentum going when your campaign or event is over. If you can keep things going way, way, way past your program, using social media as part of your campaign makes sense. Always think long term about social.

If you don’t have a plan for consistent long-term engagement, setting up and driving people to a new social media account is not the best strategy. So what can you do if you want to engage in social media but can only commit a limited amount of time after your campaign? Start small.

1) Partner up with other groups and tap into their existing platforms and activities
2) Go where the conversations are: identify “guest” platforms to participate on (“fish where the fish are”)
3) If you’re a larger company, consider creating an umbrella account to which several teams can contribute (make sure you have an editorial calendar in place to help keep things fresh)

1. Amplification

Sigh. My absolute favorite term…not! Amplification of your marketing messages is ok. Amplification only is not ok. Social media is about conversations, it’s a series of platforms that allows you to interact with your customers and your customers to interact with each other. So put that front and center. Don’t constantly talk at your customers, they will tune you out. After all, nobody likes to be constantly shouted at or sold to. Find the right balance. And remember, when sharing information with your customers, be informative and interesting, offer value to your audience and finish with a clear call to action. Craft your updates by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes instead of pushing out messages from YOUR perspective. Think about why your audience should care.

What’s the bottom line? As shiny and sexy as it may seem, social media is not a shiny object. It is an extension of your marketing, PR and other activities that may include bright shiny objects along the way but the real essence of this type of effort lies in continuous and authentic conversations. Social media needs to be a series of on-going activities and interactions that support your business objectives and are integrated into your other daily efforts.

What is your least favorite word, term or practice in social media?