Reality behind the “Social Media” hype

A friend of mine has recently retired from his full-time sales job but wants to do some part-time consultancy work helping companies with specific sales projects or sales training. “I am talking to my contacts” he told me, “I hear that this is called networking”. For him networking was jargon that described what he would do naturally, including nowadays using email and some online tools like Linkedin to help.

The term “Social Media” is in much the same position – jargon that is only vaguely understood by the majority but which describes an activity that everyone knows how to do (converse) although using some powerful new tools to hold conversations more widely, quicker and more easily.

It is the marketer’s job to explain this to businesses who are interested in finding out more. There are four important points that should always be made:

  1. Social media is about engaging with others: prospects, customers, suppliers, influencers, affiliates and others. Engagement involves a two-way conversation. If an organisation is not prepared to listen and respond, then it should not expect to gain much from participating.
  2. It is not a panacea for all your problems. You have to spend time and effort listening and then you may hear about issues and views that are difficult or embarrassing. But it is always better to confront these than have them simmering in the background. If a dissatisfied customer does not get a good response from you then she or he will almost always tells others about your poor service (on average nine other people). But research shows a customer whose complaint is handled well will become more satisfied and a greater advocate of your brand
  3. Social media is important for businesses – Comscore’s latest report shows that social media accounts for one out of every six minutes spent online in US and other countries are catching up fast. Key sites include Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo! & Tumblr (with Google+ likely to join them once it is on full release).
  4. Because it takes time to participate properly on each site, organisations should choose the sites on which they participate carefully to ensure that they have the resources to contribute and respond. It is better to be only on one social media site but post your news and thoughts there regularly, responding quickly to comments and commenting on other people’s interesting posts, rather than trying to cover all the major sites and not keeping up on any of them.

Social media strategy is an important part of any marketing strategy and needs to set out clear goals for using social media as well as a good understanding of the tools to use to participate and to measure results.