Demystifying Social Media for companies

What does it take to be a great Social Media Expert (GSME)? Let’s look at a few basic characteristics. The GSME is someone that knows his grand mothers pearls of wisdom and re-uses them to his advantage on daily basis. He will swing quotes at you that summarize what social media is about. Brilliant nuggets of wisdom that seem appropriate in this confusing age of  web interaction:

  • “Give, and ye shall receive”
  • “Failure is the stepping stone for success”
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”
  • “Give respect, take respect”
  • “The best things in life are free”

The GSME will tell you and your company that the key to a Social Media enabled marketing campaign is to leverage all thinkable social media channels. Exposing your brand out there, making sure people take notice. Joining the conversation. Get yourself on Twitter, create a Facebook page. If you are part of a bit of a geeky company then make sure you are on Friendfeed too. Start creating video messages. Post them on YouTube. Viral is the key to growth. Start blogging.

The GSME will have blazing fast, shiny, visual powerpoint slides to back up that story. More than 1 Bn people on the web, 160M potential customers on Facebook, Twitter, the new conversational tool (“Even Stephen Fry is on it! Who?”), Millions of people will watch and share your video on YouTube, half of the web is blogging, the other half reads it. Everyone older than 2.5 yrs old has a mobile phone these days, most even two. Calling is out, SMS and web browsing are in. It’s on big global conversation out there, and your company needs to be part of that.

You might feel overwhelmed, energized, seeing new opportunities to get you brand out there. But as a newbie you don’t know where to start. You may want to ask the GSME to help you out. After all, he is the expert and he can set out the winning strategy for you and your company.

Sound familiar? I’ve seen many of these GSME’s and heard many of their stories. And while the story gets better every day I feel that many of them do not have a clue how to leverage the power of social media. Let’s see a few examples where Social Media gets you nowhere:

  1. Brand exposure: In essence Social Media brings us new channels for brand exposure. It sounds great to build up a prescence in each of these channels. It is cheap and convenient. There are no costs involved to start Twittering or building a Facebook fan page. The GSME tends to forget to mention that brand exposure in itself provides community users no value whatsoever (unless you are a pop band and have fans 😉 ). Your brand will be out there, but no one will be paying attention to it.
  2. Getting your message out there: With all these great social media channels you can now reach out to millions of potential customers. The GSME fails to mention that you can send for free, but there is no guarantee that anyone wil listen.
  3. Going viral: We all know the examples of video’s at YouTube going viral. Attracting the attention of millions of users. The GSME knows how to ‘play’ the system. Getting traction and making sure the video gets picked up and launched into the huge community. The GSME fails to mention that the current online generation has seen thousands of these attempts pass by. They may watch but the impact it has on their life is about as big as  a huge advertisement in a newspaper or on TV. It gets ignored. A great side effect is that if your video is isn’t up to the standards, users will thank you for it by creating brilliant parody video’s exposing your brand and message to the fury of the community. Hey, any exposure is good exposure, right?
  4. Start blogging. Open a WordPress account and start writing. Before you know it people will subscribe to your feed and you will have yet another way to be in touch with your customers. And since you are a busy person, we might as well get a PR agency to write posts for you. And let corporate communication will be in charge of that. The problem with that is of course that people will immediately sense who is actually writing. And if it isn’t genuine there won’t be anyone reading it.

The point is that getting involve in Social Media isn’t simple at all. It’s easy to get deceived by the low entrance barrier. But setting up free accounts isn’t the hard part of Social Media. If you want to be part of Social Media you first need to acknowledge what it is. It’s all about interaction. Or, as Chris Brogan writes nicely, web 2.0 is a 2-way web. Being there is isn’t good enough. Exposing your brand isn’t either. You are not acknowledging the 2-way channel.

Playing the system, getting people to write for you, these are all tactics that sound great but simply don’t provide you or your potential customers any value. The technology may have changed, human behavior hasn’t. People don’t accept it if you ‘play’ them. If anything the technology has enabled transparency, enabling people to figure out fast enough if you are genuine or not. if you really want to be part of the conversation then there is only one way to do it. Join in and accept the consequences.

It means adding value without expecting direct return. Being there every day. Getting the employees of your company to start interacting too, without a big corporate manual telling them what to do. Getting your management to empower their team to interact. It involves making a big company look and act small again. It means adding value to conversation, to communities and not directly linking that to your product or brand. You need to bring your expertise into the interaction to help people forward.And if you are willing to put the effort in, and willing to do that for a long time, then social media might pay off. Social media is more about giving than receiving. Don’t listen to GSME’s giving you advice. Heck, don’t listen to me neither.  Getting into Social Media is hard work, and you’ll have to be willing to put the effort in.

Turns out my grandmother was right after all!


About vanelsas

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7 Responses to Demystifying Social Media for companies

  1. Once again, a brilliantly insightful post. I’ve always had reservations about the GSME term, and hesitate to use it. In fact, in my drafts folder is a half-written rant about the very concept of a “social media expert” that I’ll get around to finishing one of these days!

  2. Hugo Louter says:

    This is the blog post I would have liked to write. Excellent.

  3. @Jonathan, Hugo, thanks. Don’t take my advice too serious though 😉

  4. Ryan Sprague says:

    It’s interesting how we think that having a presence will naturally draw people in, but in reality if we don’t take the time to listen to those same people are let them know we value what they have to say they will just as soon blow us off.

    Social Media Marketing is probably one of the most inefficient things I have ever witnessed.

  5. Holly Powell says:

    This is an interesting post. The content are very clear, well written and direct. Being there, having presence, communicating and participating with the community will offer great return.. After hard work, you will earn for sure..

  6. @Ryan, couldn’t agree more. It is just as in real life 😉
    @Holly thanks 🙂

  7. Pingback: Interessante bookmarks week 9 | Bijgespijkerd

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