Unorthodox Thoughts on Social Media and Business 2010 +

Quite frankly, every Tom, Dick, and Harry does not need to participate on social media.  In some instances, organizations have business level issues that must be resolved before properly entering the social space – it’s an honest but brutal fact.  Just because your competitor is on social media and you think you have the best thing going, does not mean that others in the social arena believe that as well.  The one item that so many people fail to take into account is that you must have a distinguishable characteristic that people are connecting with you for.  Folks connect on LinkedIn because of the experiences you have and the people you are connected to.  Facebook evolves around more personable social relationships and Twitter is great for gaining exposure through access to a full spectrum of individuals, public figures, and businesses.  For newbies, Twitter can sometimes appear to be a bit overwhelming. I’d  roughly equate Twitter to walking into a middle school cafeteria the day before summer vacation…pure chaos. Unless you have a clear objective in mind, you are going to be drowned in the vast amounts of stimuli funneled your way.

To me, YouTube is one of the most fascinating online mediums out there.  At only 5 years old, YouTube spans our planet and plays home to practically any type of visual/audio information you could ever conceive of.  I think oftentimes businesses hop into social media for the wrong reasons and later realize that it isn’t just about gaining leads, hocking goods and services, or driving traffic to your website.  True, these end goals can be achieved through social media, but mostly those types of results are best earned through the natural inclinations of your fans/followers/customers/prospects.  As a music fan, I went to Jay-Z’s fan page and became a fan because I wanted to stay up-to-date on any news, song releases, collaborations, concerts, and tv appearances he might be making…I did not, however, opt in to receive status updates such as, “yo, buy my cd”, “get to my concert”, or “wear my clothes”…and thank goodness, I get what I was looking for.  Not only that, but I also get some play-by-play of what the hip-hop icon is up to on a day-to-day basis.  If all of a sudden I started getting bombarded by posts saying, “click here for a coupon”, I’d no longer connect with him.  Why is that? Because I know that his brand is strong enough (like Apple, Bose, and others) to not turn their products and messages into discount infomercials.  If you’re confused with any of this, I’d point out a simple thought experiment.  Imagine some guy comes to you saying that he’s got the best thing for you.  Imagine he’s decided he is going to be bringing back 8-track tapes.  So, what does he do? Well, he creates a Facebook fan page and begins to message on it how he is going to bring back 8-track tapes in all their glory (? before my time…).  All of a sudden, people are becoming fans by the thousands and he is elated!  The guy thinks this is the greatest thing ever.  Well, what’s the issue here?  I’d say the primary issue is that, essentially, it doesn’t matter how many fans his fan page gets for bringing back 8-track tapes so long as the last 8-track tape PLAYER manufacturer has been out of business for 17 years lol. So, our guy is stuck with a passionate fan base that may never buy anything because they simply Liked his fan page in a moment of nostalgia wishing to notify all of their friends that they reminisce about 8-track tapes and the days of old.

What does all this mean?  First off, it means that social media is not the be-all end-all of a businesses’ marketing efforts and that a business that simply does not work in real life will probably not get much reward in the digital space (figure if it sucks in real life it will probably suck on social media). Secondly, everybody has to keep in mind that social networking developed as a non-commercial communications tool that acted as an extension of a person’s real life.  We talk to our friends online because we are spatially unable to communicate with them in person.  We provide profile information because we want people to know things about us even when we are not directly talking to them in the digital world (nonverbal passive communication).  For instance, you could be reading this in Finland at 4:07am on a Wednesday in July, but I wrote it at 12:20am on Friday June 11th. in Minnesota  Name another technology that would allow us to ‘interact’ with such a geo/time disparity. Realistically, if you are not prepared to be of value in the social space, you are probably doing more harm than good for yourself and your business. It is crucial to remember that it is a communications tool; no different from a telephone.  If you are going to have a phone, you better be prepared to talk and interact with people, otherwise it’s kind of pointless. If you wanted a customer centric business in the past, you built a customer support call center and trained employees how to answer, direct, and handle phone calls of all sorts…you invested in the ability to properly interact with your customer base that wanted to or had to phone you. There’s an etiquette to using the phone, and you better bet that if you were a late adopter you had to quickly get caught up to speed or innovate your way ahead of the rest. So why wouldn’t you act so diligently about creating and managing your social efforts? Perhaps because you personally have not communicated with others on these technologies as they were originally meant to facilitate.

If you are looking for a great example of doing it right, check out Charity: Water’s social media endeavors. We live in the information age and social media is communication to the nth degree.  Information is best when properly communicated, and I believe that Charity: Water truly understands the power of information and communication.  Their organization (I believe) excels over other non-profits in that it is a simple enough process to understand and they solved the core concern that donors typically have when providing funds – ‘where’d my money go and what’s the end result?’.  It seems to me that Charity: Water understood that single core human curiosity and figured out that information and the latest means of communication could fulfill such curiosity.

Understand what your friends, fans, followers, and customers (as well as prospects) are curious about and you’ll be headed in a solid direction. That is the art of social media.

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~ by Adam Maikkula on June 11, 2010.

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