Social Media Strategy, Social Media Marketing

Nobody Said Social Media Should Be Simple

Social Media SimpleSimple isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Social media is unique in that it is the only medium yet conceived where companies are playing in the exact same sandbox as we’re playing personally. Your employees and customers aren’t making TV ads on the weekend. Nor are they making their own magazine ads for fun at night, while watching Real Housewives of Omaha (a new show where everyone is sensible and nobody wears makeup). But indeed your employees and customers ARE messing around on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs on their free time, the same space you’re trying to invade (and admit it, profit from) for corporate purposes.

That’s never happened before, and it puts marketers in the strange situation of not just littering the airwaves with TV commercials, or blighting the roadways with billboards, but of peeing in their OWN cheerios, of gumming up their OWN newsfeed with company messages of oft-dubious intent and relevancy.

Which Side Are You On?

I know the economy remains tight. I recognize that marketers are challenged with feeding leads and opportunities to the sales team like a mama bird regurgitating worms. But we have a once in a generation chance to set the trajectory for a new medium, and we’re blowing it.

Why? Because fundamentally, doing social media “right” with equal doses of speed, caring, delight, and panache is not simple. It’s both difficult and incredibly resource-intensive. As Gary Vaynerchuk said in a keynote once “Giving a shit doesn’t scale.” And he’s right.

Every time we opt for simple by pre-programming tweets, by purchasing likes, by turning our Facebook wall into nothing but a coupon machine, by using marketing automation software to auto-contact prospects in social media, we are flying in the face of what we know other social media users would prefer.

It’s up to the social media practitioners to fight back against this trend toward simplistic social marketing automation, the invitation avalanche, and buying love instead of earning it. We are trying to force social media marketing into an automated, customer acquisition focus that it wears like a suit of armor at a nudist colony. You can put a stop to it.

Killing the Culture of Simple

At every turn, you need to be communicating to your management that while indeed social media can generate incremental sales and leads, it is – at its heart – a loyalty and retention tool. You need to be communicating to your management that even though social media happens fast, benefits accrue slowly and cumulatively. You need to be communicating to your management that that numbers you need to be paying attention to are lifetime value of customers connected to your company via social media, not your total number of likes. You need to emphasize that none of this is simple.

Are those conversations easy to have, and is the instant gratification mindset taking hold in social media easy to dislodge? Nope. But the surest way to not change attitudes is to not talk about it at all.

NOTE: I’m not part of the social media unicorns and rainbows brigade. I’ve said forever that if you’re not profiting from social media, why are you doing it at all? But I’m also a lot older than many of the other social media gadflies, and I’ve seen this new medium movie before. I’m trying to make companies understand that social media is a long-term play about turning customers into advocates, rather than a short-term play about creating customers out of thin air with magic tweets.

Ask Yourself This Simple Question:

At the operational level, you can make a day-to-day difference in how social media unfolds and unfurls as well, just use this simple test:

The next time you’re thinking about what to put on your Wall, or how to get more likes, or what blog posts to green light, or anything else related to social media, ask yourself a very simple – but critically important – question:

“I use social media all the time. Would I personally respond to that? Does it make me care about this brand more?”

If no, then find another way.

Marketing has been historically hamstrung by the fact that the people doing the marketing were often intellectually and socio-economically different from the people to whom the marketing was directed. Today, that’s less true than ever. As social media reaches ubiquity, and we continue to use the same tools for business as we use for pleasure, your own ability as a marketer to define “effective” vs. “pointless” shouldn’t be discounted.

Run your social media decisions through that filter, and you’ll be amazed at how different your outcomes can be.

I grant you, none of this is a layup. But settling for simple is how we got here in the first place. Remember, nobody said social media was easy, just that it was awesome.

Are you ready to take a stand against simple? Can you?