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(Amazing Gangsta Chimp image by the talented Matt Cioffi)
You may have heard of social media. There’s been a bit of news about it recently. However, a lot of people making that news have created expectations and beliefs about social media that aren’t true.
1. Social Media is Inexpensive
False. As Charlene Li said recently, social media trades media cost for labor cost. Done correctly, social media – even a simple reputation monitoring program – is a time intensive proposition that requires daily vigilance.
2. Social Media is Fast
False. Social media is by definition slow. Done correctly, social media is about developing meaningful relationships with customers and prospective customers in their natural habitat. That’s not a “wave the magic wand” scenario. You have to create content, be part of many communities, and proceed incrementally. Many successful social media programs take months (or even more than a year) to really germinate.
3. Social Media is “Viral Marketing”
False, in the same way that a square is also a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. Can a social media program go viral? Absolutely. But if you’re engaged in a social media program in an effort to go “viral” you’re not really engaged in social media at all. You’re engaged in an advertising and marketing campaign that uses the Web as its distribution platform.
4. Social Media results can’t be measured
False. Especially in comparison to many other communication programs like traditional PR, TV advertising, outdoor advertising and others, social media actually offers pretty solid metrics. Many social media software packages (great ebook analysis of them here) can provide highly detailed reports on the impact of social media programs. Can those results be tied back directly to sales, and therefore ROI? Probably not yet, but other than search and email (and maybe banners) where CAN you do that?
5. Social Media is optional
It doesn’t matter what the demographics of your customers are. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Your customers and prospects are talking about you online. Your company needs to be part of that conversation. Today. Online is where many people do their talking, so that’s where you need to be. If barber shops were still driving consumer sentiment, I’d be writing this post about barber shop marketing. Be where your customers are.
6. Social media is hard
False. It’s not hard, it’s complicated. And that’s only because of the alphabet soup of social networks, lifestreams, sharing sites, etc. Social media is not about Facebook or MySpace or Flickr or Twitter or blogs or YouTube. It’s about having a strategy for making your company or organization more like a person and less like a machine. It’s about humanization.
If your customers and prospects feel like your company is more human and actually cares about them, they’ll want to be part of it. That’s the brand engagement holy grail that we’re all seeking. Too often, the humanization part gets overlooked in an effort to create a “user-generated video contest widget that we’ll launch on Facebook with support from Ustream.” Whatever. Use technology to be yourself, and don’t overthink it.