Nov. 11, 2010
A colleague of mine turned up this quote not long ago:
“If your goal in getting into social media is to get your feet wet, then the outcome will be wet feet.”
Although social networking has been around for more than a few years now, it seems like the tide is really starting to rise and now everyone wants to get on the boat. This increased consciousness about social media isn’t a bad thing. But like most things in life, the one size fits all approach is seldom effective.
There are many potential pitfalls. The most basic is managing expectations. Too many organizations see social media as a silver bullet that will effectively replace other forms of marketing at virtually no cost. Expectations are created throughout the organization that a tsunami of new business is certain to result. When the outcome turns out to be nothing more than a drop in the bucket, the tide of management interest will ebb quickly and inevitably.
Expansive use of social media is right for some, but not everyone. Social networking is about creating conversations. If a specific product or service simply doesn’t lend itself to a high level of interest and discussion even among the most loyal users, it probably isn’t a good fit for aggressive use of social media. Picture yourself at the office water cooler. Could you imagine an active and engaged conversation about your brand? If not, then chances are, it won’t be a hot online topic either.
Then there are the hidden costs. Like the proverbial iceberg, what you see above the surface is a fraction of what lies beneath. If you are fortunate to represent a “talkable” brand, you will need to make an investment in the resources necessary to listen in on the conversations. If you don’t, you risk losing out on the most valuable benefits afforded by social media. You also risk not being in the position to respond or react quickly if negative views start to surface in the conversation.
Lest anyone come to the conclusion that I am standing against the flood of popular marketing opinion about the values of social media, that is not the case. Quite the contrary. Our agency has worked with multiple clients to successfully harness the power of this contemporary marketing tool. I am not even suggesting there isn’t merit in putting a toe in the water and see how it feels. There are fundamental steps one can take before full body submersion. The key is to be thoughtful, strategic and realistic. Is social media a viable vessel for marketing your brand? What kind of results can we realistically expect to see? How confident are we in our ability to negotiate these waters.
If you’re comfortable with your answers to these questions, you may be ready to take the plunge – or at least get your feet a little wet.
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