Social media can be confusing; it’s full of acronyms and strange symbols and it moves at a high speed. If social media isn’t your core business it can be tempting to put your faith in a practitioner with thousands of personal Facebook friends, Instagram and Twitter followers, who promises to somehow make it easy. However, advice from many consultants and social media “gurus” like myself has to be taken with grain of salt. There is no default rule of social media marketing and sometimes we have personal interests at play. Positioning social to be much more complex and scary than it actually is benefits us gurus/consultants. After all, how would you survive the online world without us?
We come up with complex charts, give them fancy names and create jargon like ‘dark social’ and ‘quantified self’ in part because it sounds cool, but also because it perplexes decision makers, which creates a need and gets our phones to ring! However, there are many who see hype and jargon as what it really is: hype and jargon. Without oversimplifying our industry, a social media marketing expert should be able to break it down and easily explain how to build your program, no matter how new or mature it is.
But it’s really simple
Recently I had the good fortune to present to two very distinct and talented audiences. The first was a room full of very accomplished journalists at the 47th Annual National Association of Real Estate Editors Journalism Conference. The second was online real state global leaders at the Property Portal Watch Conference. In both presentations, I stressed that people in the business of social tend to make things complex when at the end of the day, it really comes down to two things that matter (h/t Robert Scoble):
1. Are people talking about you? (“you” can be a person, a brand, a product, etc.)
2. Are those conversations leading to your desired outcome? (sales, traffic, page views or whatever your desired outcome is)
Many of the journalists I spoke to were focused on page views, shares and other similar metrics that their newsrooms expect from them. With the executives overseeing various portals, it was overall traffic and connecting people in the right part of the decision loop with their customers.
These days, many in my social stream are sharing their enthusiasm around the idea of “social business” or “social” enterprise software. I read hundreds of articles presenting various theories of how to dominate the online space and get pitches from dozens of services promising to amplify, quantify, or augment my company’s social messaging. However, I believe this is premature for many and is a convenient re-direct from the original question we’ve constantly being asked and the discussion we continue to have: delivering a real return on investment (ROI). If you haven’t delivered real ROI to yourself, or your company with your social efforts, how will enterprise software deliver ROI?
It’s not all smoke and mirrors
I’ve heard compelling presentations that show how internal social systems have brought down costs at organizations, but if you haven’t figured out the two things that matter above, getting your employees on Yammer or an internal white labeled version of Facebook is not going to do much for your bottom line.
Jason Falls, Liz Strauss and McKinsey & Company have inspired me over the past year to get back to the basics. One of the things I admire about Jason is that his book “No Bullshit Social Media” encourages people to cut through the nonsense and focus on what social media works for in business. One slogan that my team and I have lived by since we heard Liz Strauss say it at Social Media Club LA last year is to “build your network before you need it.” A fan base isn’t just about the numbers; it’s about a real network of advocates who can often promote your brand better than you can. McKinsey & Company did an excellent job in explaining social media to executives with Demystifying social media and I often refer to in presentations.
As social media marketers and consultants we must strive to give the best advice but that advice has to be tailored to the business and their business objectives. What do you want social media to do for you? If it doesn’t answer the two questions above, scare tactics, buzzword jargon and complex diagrams of the landscape aren’t going to help you in the long run.
Businesses and websites change; fundamentals do not. When I started in the business of social influence, long before Facebook was even a vague concept, we hit message boards and engaged in conversations that were already going on. Once we had shown interest and gained trust, then we could reach them with our messages. The buzzwords and platforms change, but those two core questions do not.
What hype and jargon is driving you nuts these days? Who inspires you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.