There is no question that using Social Media can be a fantastic tool in your arsenal for delivering your message. One of the things that I have seen, however, is that the Law of the Hammer applies with social media: once you get ahold of the social media hammer everything looks like a nail.
Personally, I’ve been finding a lot of so-called “social media experts” coming onto the scene, and very few of them actually have something relevant to say. They may be extremely familiar with techniques for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or Search Engine Marketing/Management (SEM), but are hard pressed to be able to identify the “when” and “why” you should use social media/SEO/SEM. In their book, it’s a panacea for awareness, getting-your-name-out, and general visibility.
I detest people who simply repackage existing information and call themselves ‘experts.’ I categorize the bulk of executive coaches and motivational speakers in this way, too. Most of them desire to be seen as the ones with all the answers, and have merely aggregated studies, techniques, and tools that others have created and repackaged them into some sort of message, such as, “Did you know about XYZ social media tool? If you didn’t know about that, you’re behind the times! You’ve gotta have a presence on ABC site, after all you wouldn’t want to miss out on 350 million users, would you?”
Die, hideously, mutant scum.
It appears I’m not the only one who hesitates addressing those who provide social media advice as “experts,” but it still concerns me that most people continue to focus on the sprint to the finish line rather than the preparation it requires to get to the point of using social media in the first place. It’s a backwards way of thinking, and it’s dangerous.
Why is it dangerous? Because to “do” social media correctly requires understanding its role in the bigger picture. It requires understanding the relationship of your message to your audience, and then and only then should you consider social media if it fits the appropriate criteria for handling that relationship.
There’s an old joke that I’m constantly reminded of whenever someone talks about social media as if it were the Second Coming:
A woman is walking down the street when she happens to see a guy on his hands and knees, crawling around on the ground desperately looking for something.
“What are you looking for?” she asks.
Looking up, he says, “I’ve lost a very rare quarter. Do you think you can help me find it?”
Wanting to help, but not thrilled about crawling around on the ground, she begins looking for the quarter in earnest. After about 15 minutes, they have had no luck.
“I’m afraid I can’t see it anywhere. Are you sure you lost it here?”
The man looks at her, and shakes his head. “Oh, no! I lost it over in that alley over there.”
Stunned, the woman asks, “They why are we looking here?”
The man blinks, and says, “Because the light’s better here!”
Most people affect their approach with social media simply because the light’s better, not necessarily because it may be where the message and audience truly meet. Indeed, it’s the logic behind so many companies using Fan Pages on Facebook that are, quite frankly, completely inappropriate to their overall marketing strategy.
This is true for individuals as well as companies. In the past several months I have been chastised by several people for not optimizing my search engine results, not having gained enough followers on Twitter (how much is enough, anyway?), not recreating the wheel from scratch by finishing the install of WordPress onto my own server so that I could add in search-engine plug-ins that aren’t available by using wordpress.com.
Really, guys? Really??
The fact that these tools are available is wonderful if they happen to suit the go-to-market strategy appropriate to the message and audience you’ve already identified. You should never approach a strategy solely because it’s free, or only involves sweat equity. There are opportunity costs involved in spending the time to focus on social media: if you’re doing that, what aren’t you doing that could be more productive?
Do you have a planned Return on your Investment (ROI)? How do you know if your SEO/SEM strategy is working or, more importantly, not working? Have you put systems in place for benchmarking? How do you know that any successes you receive come from social media? This stuff takes work and planning, folks, otherwise you’re risking spending all that time and effort and hoping that someone, somewhere, will recognize your brilliance and come flocking to you like a moth to a flame.
Hope is not a strategy, and if you build it they will not come. And even if they did, how could you be sure it was a result of your planned social media strategy, and not just because you got lucky?
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