Taking the Red Pill: Wake up to Social Media

Taking the Red Pill

Is social media the magic pill to cure all your marketing ills? What pills are YOU on?
Wake up!

Read this. It’s a collection of some really interesting, eye-opening, hard-hitting posts.

Okay, read it in a bit.

Social Media is the hottest new buzzword in mainstream media. It went through that phase last year in digital. Marketing managers, GMs, AVPs, and CEOs everywhere are suddenly seeing these new words erupting like disease in their news… Dozens of words, each usually two syllables, capiTalization all over the place, oozing numbers like 2.0 and 3.0. Like a disease, they make them uncomfortable. They itch, they draw the eye, and while they fill them with discomfort, they also fill their minds with wild, fevered imaginings.
[Disclosure: I am a marketing manager]
And along comes the recently hired assistant manager, the agency guy, who not only knows what they mean, but refers to the people responsible on a first-name basis.
[Disclosure: I used to be the agency guy]
Marketing Manager takes him out for a smoke. Then a daru session at Janta Bar. And the next morning, the blazing new focus that will launch the company into the century after next is SOCIAL MEDIA.

But who’s going to do it?
A sudden flood of presentations from companies all formed exactly 8 months ago, all with the word ‘Google’ popping up latest by the third slide, and an impressively alphabet-soupy creds list.
Case studies. Average responses. Followers. Fans. Targeting. Response rates. Viral impacts. Success. Glory. Eternal Life and Nirvana.

Everything except that slightly shifty look in the eye, and the crossed fingers under the table. There’s two ways this will go from here.
1. The plan, after extensive quizzing (or even trials) delivers a grand total of five thousand visits and five hundred responses. Budgets are put back onto one more primetime 15-seconder and the Marketing Manager’s name goes onto the company’s Google Alert so they can pitch again the day he moves to another company.
2. The plan is launched with great fanfare. Dozens of part-timers and interns frantically participate in communities, share links to their friends, tweet, text, update status messages, forward mails, and refresh. The plan delivers, after 6 months, ten thousand views and one thousand responses. The Agency gets an award at another alphabet-soup convention. The ‘Some Of Our Clients’ slide gets updated.

Wake up!
Social Media is not magic. It’s also not an outsourced service. It’s something you own. It’s what you do. Not hire to have done. It’s the difference between hiring a maid to bring them back from school every day while you’re at work, and letting the same maid take them on a holiday in the new car.

It. Takes. Time.
It takes effort, energy, intelligence, and patience. It takes money to get people who have all four. It takes a long, slow, learning curve as you figure out what works and what doesn’t. It takes not only a village to raise a child, but also a decade. Remember that. You could clone, accelerate-grow and flash-imprint personalities instead of having kids, but you end up with an army of identical faces that tend to creep people out.
Using Social Media – to use another of the insanely colorful analogies that I enjoy doing – is like using a single sniper instead of carpet-bombing a city, which usually gets bad press. You can achieve what you want without any collateral damage, but it takes time to engineer.

Here’s a little clue about a lot of social media agencies. They don’t have one.
Most have got lucky with one thing that worked, and they’ve spent months trying to figure out how. The really successful ones did manage to figure it out. Then the cycle starts all over again with the next client, the next objective.

 They don’t know your brand, they don’t feel your brand. You are an ATM that someone left his card in. They will deliver mechanical activity, and not engage. They won’t converse. Why should they? It’s not their brand. It’s yours.

You’re the one who has to grow it, nurture it. They have to meet their revenue targets. They know that if they succeed too well, you will set up a SMO division, poach three of their best people, and cancel their contract. They have to deliver an average response to survive.
[Note: this is not a damnation of all social media agencies. Some of them do brilliant work, and if you know what you’re doing, they can give you insights and implement techniques that will rock. But they won’t do your work for you. Your brand. Your involvement.]

If you’re serious about Social Media, do it yourself. It involves technologies that were MADE to be used by untrained people. It’s not rocket science. Really. SMO and SEO guys wrap it in jargon to cover up exactly that. The sight of too many acronyms should fill you with suspicion, or even better, curiosity. Not fear. You can do it, and should.
But it’s a completely new way of doing things. Not just new media – a completely new paradigm. Make sure you’re ready.

The last word – Check out this report.  It has one key learning – the small business owners are more likely to use social media, and when they do, see better results.
It’s obvious. They’re not blowing money; they’re doing it themselves because it’s their business, and they love it. They want to see what everyone else thinks about it. They have a personal connect. They’re perfect for social media.

With that to think about, I now sign off. Thought for the day – the first steps if you start today.

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