Villing & Company

Social Media: Think Before You Drink the Kool-Aid

Let me start this discussion with two disclaimers. One, given all the incessant chatter about social media, I had planned to back off this conversation for a while. Two, I am not anti-social media. Since I have written a couple pieces recently raising questions about its use, I suppose one could jump to the conclusion I was just an old marketing guy swimming against the tide.

Actually, my opinions about social media are generally very positive. I believe it has opened a whole new world of opportunity for dialogue between marketers and consumers. My concern is the way it is being touted as some sort of magic elixir for marketers – providing incredible impact at little or no cost.

I’d been thinking about this quite a bit when I received the following invitation to a LinkedIn discussion: “Has anyone set up their business Facebook Fan Page? Many companies are jumping on board to set up their biz FB Fan page and build a solid fan following and much needed extra revenue. How about you?"

I’m sure the intention was innocent enough, just a means of starting an online conversation. However, it really struck me as one more example of the Field of Dreams mentality: if you build a Facebook page, the fans will come.

Sorry, but that’s not reality. People can’t come to a Facebook page or other social networking site unless (a) they know you have a presence there and (b) you give them a reason to come. To me, that’s the missing link in the discussion chain. If one is working to aggressively build a community of fans or friends or faux family through blogs and other channels or tactics, the pay-off can be significant. There is an excellent opportunity to engage these people in real dialogue. But if your only friends are your actual real-world friends, you haven’t built a new following and you’re certainly not adding extra revenue.

That brings me to my other gripe about the mindset of those promoting the magical wonders of social media. The cost. It’s said that “free” is one of the three strongest words in the English language. It’s also said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Is it really free to ride the social media bandwagon? If one only looks at out-of-pocket expenses, this might be technically true. But there’s one more relevant saying. “Time is money.” The time commitment required to be involved in social networking is intensive. It’s not just the time required to build a page. It’s the time spent carefully crafting an integrated strategy and executing the appropriate tactics. Even more time is necessary to monitor the conversations that are going on about your brand and responding in an appropriate way.

I could go on, but you get the point. My advice is simply this. Think before you drink all the Kool-Aid that’s being served. Social media seems like a pretty sweet deal, but without a strategy or a commitment, the aftertaste can be less than satisfying.

Filed Under: social media

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