Ah social media. The latest golden goose to grace our world with promises of untold riches, a slimmer waistline and the perfect tan. The one every girl wants to go home with and every dude wants to be. The prom queen, the rock star and the cult leader all in one.
Getting the picture yet? If you listen to the hype, social media is the answer to all that ails you and your company. It will increase your sales, touches and impressions by 800%…if only we could figure out how it all works.
Truth be told, so much of what’s happening in social media is simply the infiltration of the same sheisty individuals who have previously occupied the world of infomercials and used car lots. If I had a dollar for every time that a “social media expert” followed me on Twitter, I wouldn’t have written this article, since I’d be chilling in Hawaii as the youngest retiree in the islands.
But I’m not, so here we are. Given the omnipresence of social media these days, surely there’s something to it, right? The answer is yes, but it’s often light-years away from the hype and hyperbole. So how do you drill down to the real benefits of social media? You get back to basics.
Hence the “no duhs.” There aren’t any quick fixes to make social media work for you. That’s why I don’t consider myself an expert in the field. I’m a social media grunt. I get in the trenches and get the work done, and that’s ultimately where you’ll find success.
Without any further ado, the “no duhs” of your social media strategy:
Know your purpose
Before you ever set foot in the shared space of social media, you absolutely have to establish why you’re doing it:
- What’s brought you to this point?
- Do you have a specific product or line of products that you’re trying to sell?
- What’s your brand?
- What’s your mission statement?
- How have you presented yourself in other media up to this point?
- What do you expect to achieve?
Get the idea? Before you spin your wheels creating a Facebook page, setting up a Twitter account, broadcasting via a YouTube channel or utilizing whatever else pops up on the scene in the future, you need to have a good grasp of what you or your company hopes to accomplish. Define your expectations before you take the plunge.
Learn the platforms
Not all social media outlets are created equal. This may be the biggest “no duh” statement of all, but you can’t do the same things on Facebook that you can do on Twitter. You can’t run a YouTube channel the same way you create a music profile on MySpace.
Do your homework. Each of these sites is like visiting a new country, or at least driving across the border to a new state. Each one does things just a little bit differently.
For example, I love good southern barbecue. For those of you who know BBQ, you know that I just made a sweeping generalization. What kind of southern BBQ? North Carolina or Kentucky? Western Carolina or Eastern Carolina?
The same is true of social media. There are shades and variations of capabilities and opportunities, so you have to know what you’re dealing with before you can properly engage.
Learn the culture of each of the various social media platforms. This will help you make good decisions about where to make your presence known and give you the understanding to make your efforts more effective. Facebook might be a great place for you to create a page about your products or services, while Twitter could be a waste of your time unless you have solid, regular bites of news and information to share.
Know your audience
This goes hand-in-hand with familiarizing yourself with the social media platforms and knowing your purpose. In the same way that you need to learn the culture, you also need to learn the language. When I moved to France as a teenager, it was one thing to pick up on the fact that there was a good bus system (culture) but quite another to figure out how to purchase tickets to ride across town (language).
Learn who your audience is and how they communicate. Don’t assume that they’ll understand the jargon that you and your coworkers use to discuss your products or services. If you try using that lingo without some form of translation, you’ll end up alienating the very people you want to reach.
Of all the “no duhs,” this is probably the most self-explanatory. Just be real. Be real about your identity as a representative of a company; be real about the products and services that you provide. Don’t oversell or overhype who you are and what you offer. People can see through that, especially in the world of social media. It’s generally very easy to pick up on who’s legit and who’s not.
This really gets back to the root of setting expectations. Unless you’re marketing the next iPhone or the next search engine (and good luck with that if you are), chances are you’re not going to have thousands or millions of people beating a path to become your fan on Facebook. It’ll take time for your company ad to get some traction on YouTube. Growing your Twitter following won’t happen overnight, unless you’re Ashton Kutcher. And honestly, does the world need another Ashton?
Be realistic, and let your presence on these sites develop organically. Much like the language/country analogy, it takes time to get acclimated to a new culture and to become more effective at communicating according to the social norms of that culture.
Admittedly, this final “no duh” might seem a little goofy. But let’s be honest. Any time someone comes in with plans to formalize a previously underground environment (i.e. big business entering the world of Facebook), there can be a vibe of killing the party. Social media has taken over our lives for one very good reason: It’s fun!
It’s fun to play silly games that measure your brain capacity versus your friends’. It’s fun to discover a new band or movie that your friends haven’t heard about yet. It’s fun to retweet a good joke from a comedian you like. It’s fun (usually) to reconnect with old friends after years of being out of touch.
Social media is, at heart, social. It’s meant to connect people. We form and build relationships (whether in person or online) because it brings joy and meaning to our lives, so don’t let the business of doing business via social networking sites rob you of that. Take the time to invest in the lives of others, and the riches that you reap will be far greater than can be measured in balance sheets and ROI calculations.
By the way, if you’re just not a very social person, that’s all well and good. But maybe you shouldn’t be the one managing your company’s social media efforts. Seek out those who truly enjoy the medium, and allow them the time and space to explore the various “countries” of social media. Let them learn the languages and the cultures that go with each.