I don’t have a problem with Guy Kawasaki. I enjoy his books. His track record in business is substantial. We have friends in common. But on the subject of social media strategy, we disagree in every possible way.
Last month, Guy was interviewed (that happens a lot) in Inc. Magazine about social media, as was asked whether entrepreneurs should hire a consultant and develop a social media strategy. (edit: for clarity, this is the exact question he was asked: “Let’s say an entrepreneur is new to the whole social media thing. There’s a tendency to hire a consultant and formulate a plan. Is that the right approach?”) To which he replied:
No. Just dive in…It’s very difficult to create goals and strategies for something like Google+ or Facebook or Twitter if you’re not familiar with Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.
I reject everything about this sentiment, but perhaps most vehemently the notion that you should have a strategy for Google + or Facebook or Twitter per se. There is no such thing as a Twitter strategy. Or a Facebook strategy. Or a Google + strategy. Participation in these (or other) social outposts are tactics used in service of a social media strategy, which in turn is in service of a marketing (and sometimes customer service/retention) strategy, which is one element of an overall business strategy.
The goal is not to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media. Never forget that.
A Social Media Strategy of Denying You Have a Social Media Strategy
Perhaps the greatest irony here is that Guy Kawasaki actually has a very clear, multi-faceted social media strategy that maps to business outcomes. He advises people to just wing it, while he is doing anything but. Is this a disingenuous misdirection, or a semantic misunderstanding?
Inside the Guy Kawasaki Social Media Strategy
Recently, Kawasaki has embraced Google + as tightly as any non-Google employee on Earth not named Chris Brogan. (I like Google + myself, and believe Google has the leverage to eventually make it a major player. Guy’s new e-book on Google + is doing well, and I admire him sticking to his guns and predicting that the pundits have prematurely written the platform’s obit). I enjoy what Kawasaki does on Google + as his curated links are almost always interesting photos or videos. He clearly understands what is often missed about Google Plus – that it is a multi-media discovery network.
But like most of the popular members of Google +, Kawasaki made his social media bones elsewhere, most notably on Twitter where he has 750,000 followers. Let’s look at that element of the social media strategy.
Each day on Twitter, Kawasaki shares 25-50 links to interesting content on a vast array of topics. He does not interact personally from his @GuyKawasaki account. No replies. No mentions. No thanks. Just link after link after link after link. Unlike most heavy curators on Twitter, however (including me), Kawasaki does not link to source material. Instead, he links to his own Alltop website, where he excerpts the original content and then includes a link for the “rest” of the story. (disclosure: On a couple of occasions, my blog posts have been tweeted from his account)
Each of these Alltop pages include five banner ads. Thus, Kawasaki is directly monetizing his tweeting by running ads on top of content he did not actually create. Whether you agree with its lack of humanization and intellectual property mechanics, if that’s not a social media strategy then the Hunger Games isn’t going to start a youth archery boom in the U.S.
Another mystifying quote from the Inc. interview:
You really can’t spend money on social media unless you really try. Social media is really more about effort than expense.
Firstly, I’m guessing the providers of social media management software (a hundreds of millions of dollars per year industry) would disagree with Kawasaki’s thoughts on this point. I do too, but for a different reason.
As Charlene Li said first, social media isn’t inexpensive, it’s different expensive.
Effort IS expense. Everything in life, business, marketing, and social media has an opportunity cost. All the minutes you spend on social media are minutes you could be spending on something else, and even if your full-time job is social media, there are labor and overhead costs associated with your participation. It’s not an insignificant time investment to do it well, and to give the impression that social media is “free” is reckless and incorrect, like having Lindsay Lohan host SNL.
Social Media Strategy is Easier Without All That Pesky Labor
Perhaps one of the reasons Kawasaki overlooks the effort required to excel at social media is that he hasn’t had to expend as much as the rest of us. Kawasaki has at various times been listed on the Twitter and Google + “recommended followers” lists, which enable you to accumulate hundreds of thousands of followers in short order. But that doesn’t really bother me. Follower counts are overrated anyway, and there’s a lot of people with even more followers whose value to humanity is subject to debate.
To be sure, the links shared on Kawasaki’s Twitter account are uniformly interesting. They scream “click me” and you could easily devote a decent chunk of each day following those links. (in fact, one of our clients – Right This Minute – is a daily TV show and website that takes the same approach but solely with awesome videos). But the thing is, Kawasaki doesn’t find all the great stories he tweets, or write all the excerpts, or even send all the tweets. His Twitter account is ghost-written (at least partially) by professional staffers, and has been for years.
This makes his quote about social media being free even more puzzling. Are these ghost-tweeters working for oxygen and tap water only? If so, I need to talk to the HR Director at Alltop immediately. (disclosure: my managing editor tweets one “greatest hits” post of mine each night from my account)
Social Media Strategy That Actually Has a ROI
I don’t know enough about Guy’s Facebook, blogging, and other social media programs to understand how they fit into the master plan, but I can guess at how the Twitter program supports the business strategy, because it drives direct revenue. We can actually determine the ROI of the Twitter program (which is how you calculate social media ROI – always at the tactic level first. Then, you combine the ROI of each tactic to determine the ROI of the social media program in its entirety).
I am of course guessing at these data points, but here’s how you’d go about the calculations:
- Average of 35 tweets per day x 30 days = 1050 tweets per month.
- Average click-through rate on each Tweet of .2% (what I average) = 1,500 clicks per tweet = 1.575 million clicks per month.
- Average sharing rate of 1% (a bit lower than usual, due to excerpts only) = 15,750 sharing-driven visits = 1,590,750 total visits per month.
- Average pages per visit of 1.25 (what I average) = 1,988,437 pages viewed per month.
- Five ads per page (one is sometimes a self promo, so make it 4.5) = 8,947,968 ad impressions per month.
- Average ad CPM of $2 = $17,894 in gross ad revenue per month from Twitter program.
Total Monthly Return = $17,894
- 2 half-time employees at average of $3,333/month each + 40% overhead factor = $9,333 per month in direct labor costs.
- 10 hours per month at $500/hour yield rate for Guy’s oversight = $5,000 month in indirect opportunity costs.
- Amortized server/design/admin costs = $2,000/month
Total Monthly Investment = $16,333
ROI (Return minus Investment, divided by Investment) = 9.5%
What do you know? The Guy without the social media strategy may be making almost 10% off of every tweet.
Social media has too much opportunity (and too many pits of real-time quicksand) to just blindly jump into the deep end of the pool. Of course, if you’re only involved in social media personally, these rules don’t apply. My wife – who is on Facebook only to connect with actual friends and family – does not need a social media strategy. But for business? I don’t care if you’re big or small. B2B or B2C. New or old. Enthusiastic or suspicious. You need to know how and why you’re getting involved with social media so that you can rightsize your resources, relationships, and expectations.
A social media strategy allows your company to focus on being social, without worrying as much about doing social media and the tactic du jour. It provides guidance (and math) that help you make better and more effective decisions in the social universe.
To me, it’s worth it.