Social Media: Highest Cost, Lowest Impact? (TCCS#5)

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The Competitive Challenge Series (TCCS)

Vol. 1 #5


The Competitive Challenge Series will help you understand, identify and improve every facet of your branding and messaging that impacts your sales and growth. My objective is to deliver strategy and ideas to propel you beyond competitive challenges.

This weeks challenge...

Social Media: Highest Cost, Lowest Impact?

A Contrarian View by Hamish Chadwick.

Many people in the business community are still skeptical of the value of social media. Some feel that it’s a fad and others approach it with trepidation as a result of marketers continually ramming it down their throats that they need to ‘get with the picture’.

I find it presumptuous to think that if you’re not engaged with social media that it’s hurting your business.

Social media is just that, it’s ‘media’. It’s not a phenomena or a beast that must be tip toed around for fear of it biting. I’m neither in awe of or cynical about social media, it’s a communications tool and another avenue to publish content.


How is Social Media Changing Marketing?

It’s simply giving an honest picture of a company’s overall strategy and perception of value. By this I mean it’s revealing low value as much as it’s showcasing firms that can offer high value.

It’s exposing weaknesses in marketing direction and how companies think about and understand their customers. If people have nothing interesting to say it shows, likewise if people are switched-on they’re contributions are engaging.

All this means is that social media is not a bandwagon you simply jump on, like all successful communication it requires thought, planning and execution with clear outcomes stipulated first.

Beware of Experts & Employ Common Sense

There are countless people in the marketing world who refer to themselves as experts in social media. Many proclaim to have tactics that if you ignore, you’ll be hung out to dry as the dinosaur of your industry. Social media is simply another avenue to communicate value with your audience.

The key difference with social media as opposed more traditional marketing such as direct mail aside from the cost benefit, is that you can communicate in real time, and it provides a way for your audiences to respond and interact with your content, effectively opening a dialogue with your market.

Setting up social a social media account is the easy bit, knowing how to apply it to your advantage is the problem. The key is not to focus on technology, focus on content and value. This means;

  • Putting yourself in your customers shoes
  • Thinking about the value you can provide
  • Mapping out your content
  • Including social media in your broader marketing strategy rather than a stand alone activity


Who’s Listening?

Millions of people worldwide have at least one social media account. This suggests there’s a huge potential revenue stream waiting to be tapped. The effectiveness of it however boils down to whether your message is being received by the people that matter. Are you talking to buyers or at least people who can influence buyers?

It’s not such a big hurdle in the business-to-consumer world, but in the business-to-business space there are a number of potential barriers including time, corporate policy regarding access to social media and whether your economic buyer even uses social media.

Being aware of these constraints will help you develop your strategy rather than relying on blind faith.

How to Approach Social Media

Social media is not revolutionary in itself. It is simply another way to communicate and connect with your audience. What is revolutionary is the fact that social media is free to use and gives you the potential to get in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

The goal is not how many followers you have or how many updates you can post in a day. Your focus simply needs to be directed at how you can exploit these systems to build value with the people you want to transact with.

Be Selective, There Are No Rules

There are still some people touting that the best social media strategy is to get as many people in your networks as possible and that it’s ‘etiquette’ to reciprocate with every follower or friend request. If your goal is information overload then this strategy will exceed your expectations.

There are no rules, so if you’re not getting any value from a connection, lose it. The real value in social media is the quality of your connections and interactions. Connections will only develop into relationships when value is reciprocal.

Don’t Engage in a Timeline War

Most social media platforms use a timeline to display user inputs, much the same way that email is prioritised in your inbox by the date it was sent or was received. It would seem to be common sense that in order to stay ‘top of mind’ and ‘top of the pile’ so no one misses your updates that you must continually be updating your status.

This expectation is as mad as thinking that a bestselling author needs to hit the shelves with a new title every fortnight to maintain their profile. Quality and consistency will always surpass quantity. If you bombard them with low value content they’ll stop listening.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Deciding not to engage with social media is a fair call for many businesses and professionals alike. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you should. You need to make a clinical assessment of your situation and question what value you’ll derive from it. More importantly, what value will your target audience and customers gain from it.

The big question is whether your economic buyers are engaged in social media? Will they receive your message through it or is another form of communication going to get your message across?

There are some in the marketing world claiming that if you’re not in it, you’ll be left behind. I think that’s an unfair assumption as there are many businesses that offer tremendous value who are not currently engaging with social media.

There is no right or wrong, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s simply an opportunity to engage with an audience. The better question to ask is what value can I provide, and what is the best way to communicate that to my target audience?


What You Need To Do

Like all marketing activities if it’s going to return value, it needs to have purpose and it needs to be accountable. The following key points relate to any social media platform such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.


1. Determine Your Purpose

Determining purpose stems from understanding your audience and working out what value you can provide them. If you don’t determine your purpose then you can’t have any accountability.

Types of content you could engage with:

Technical: system or operational status notifying of downtime or changes etc. E.g. airlines making updates re flight cancellations
Time related: weather notifications, traffic, programming etc.
Thought leadership: tips, advice, thought provoking perspective etc.
News: industry developments, what you’re currently working on if it holds relevance etc.

Content must focus on adding value, not selling.

2. Plan Content In Advance

Once you’ve determined your purpose you can start mapping out your content. Draft a number of updates across a range of subjects then broadcast them on a consistent basis. One or two succinct updates per day are worth more than an endless stream of drivel. Planning content may seem contrary to how these platforms are supposedly geared to operate using spontaneity, but if you want to build real value there’s nothing wrong with preparation.

You should spend no more than 15 minutes a day on social media. Don’t let it consume your time as you already have a number of other distractions in your daily routine such as email. Planning your content will ensure you avoid wasting time.
Don’t use social media to the exclusion of other forms of communication. Look at ways it can work alongside your other marketing activities.


3. Build In Some Accountability

You are what you post, tweet and update, so you can’t afford the time to let things trundle along. If you delegate social media management to your team they must be clear on what you want to achieve and what constitutes preferable and unacceptable content. This includes syndicated content derived from republishing 3rd party content.

There are only three outcomes from any content you publish; positive, negative or neutral. This means it’s either supporting and building brand value, doing nothing for it, or at worst it’s contradictory or eroding your value.

Keep guidelines simple but make it clear that any content outside your ‘purpose’ is not acceptable.

Never become a slave to any technology. Like any form of communication you need to use social media for the benefit of your customer. Include social media in your marketing reviews and make it accountable to your overall communications and brand strategy.

Measuring Success

It’s not a numbers game. The number of friends, followers, connections or updates you have is not in itself a gauge of success. What’s the sense in having thousands of ‘followers’ if the value you’re offering is irrelevant to them. 

The same goes for a shotgun approach in trying to follow or connect with anyone and everyone. This kind of behaviour simply creates noise where valuable content and messages are lost.

Success can be measured in the quality of your interactions and in the confidence that your content is positively adding value to both your organisation and your customer.

© Hamish Chadwick 2011. All Rights Reserved.
hamish@imagesubstation.com

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