How Should We Deal With Social Media?

How Should We Deal With Social Media?

photo from flickr/ gill4kleuren

Tom Smith,wrote a great post on the Mashable site recently. He outlines the reasons why Big Brands struggle with social media:

1. Social Media is often viewed as just another marketing channel
Right off the bat, this is the biggest mistake of all.  Social Media is of course NOT just another marketing tactic.  It is a whole different paradigm in communications.  It is a new and unique way to interact with your consumer-whether your consumer is an end consumer or another business.  So many companies, instead of seeing social media as an incredible opportunity, will try to force a square peg into a round hole, forcing this new concept into old, well-known formulas.  Put another way, the old formula requires the consumer to listen to the message.  The Social Media way requires companies to listen to their consumers.

2. Social Media does not fit into current structures.

For many companies, Social Media is the veritable Elephant in the Room. Neither beast nor fowl, it doesn’t fit into any pre-existing department or function.  Its not marketing or pr or communications and certainly does not fall under the domain of the infamous Webmaster who used to handle all things Web.  Social Media is a combination of many things and is therefore hard to handle in companies that like to draw lines and squares and keep things separate.  For a company to implement a Social Media strategy  successfully, it will need to think creatively and flexibility.  Yoga of the Corporate Mind. Not an easy feat, particularly for larger corporations.

3. Communities and content are global and corporations are generally national.

As an American who has lived most of her adult life in Europe and worked exclusively in the chess game of international communications, this is undoubtedly my favorite topic (and one which you will hear a lot about in this blog).  None of us can avoid it any longer.  Social Media has forced our hand.  Why?  Because social media users consume and share content globally not nationally.  You can’t keep the nice, neat borders of nations separate any longer.  The Internet–and in particular Social Media–makes this impossible.  But companies are still set up along national lines even if they call themselves ‘global’companies. The era of true internationalism is upon us.  Are you ready?

4. Social Media is a long term proposition:

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Nor is Social Media.  Whether you like it or not, everything about Social Media takes time.  Building communities, sharing content and getting people involved is time-consuming and long term.  The rewards are there but they don’t come in overnight.  The problem is  marketing and public relations operate traditionally  with short-time objectives using finite campaigns.  But as Smith rightly points out, Social Media is not a campaign, it is a permanent approach.

5. Social Media promises no guaranteed results.

Let’s face it.  We all want guarantees.  But the problem with Social Media (and of course the root of its very strength) is that it is a pull medium.  Its success is totally dependent on whether the user WANTS to interact with it.  If your message isn’t relevant to your user, then nothing happens.  End of story.  Results will come when you listen to what the consumer wants.

6. Social Media is Measured differently. While advertising is mesaured in terms of exposures (page views for example), social media is measured in terms of interactions ( i.e. number of users, number of friends, number of views). These numbers will inevitably be smaller but not by any means less powerful.