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Is Social Media Helping or Hurting Your Company?

March 25, 2015

social media helping or hurting

Likes and Follows Are Appealing, but Are They Worth It?

People consider social media to be free—probably because there’s no out-of-pocket media cost, like there is with paid advertising or promotion. But with social media, as with everything else, there is no such thing as a free lunch. While anyone can play in the social media sphere without paying an access fee, the costs can be enormous.

There’s the cost of assigning a resource to manage social media projects. Setting up a Twitter feed or a Facebook account or a YouTube channel is nice, but unless you are monitoring these channels in real time and keeping the content fresh, nothing good will happen for you. In fact, bad things can happen. Your customers may be leaving comments that you don’t see and therefore you can’t provide a timely response.

Posting on social media without the correct content is not only a waste of time and money, it can hurt you badly as well. Content needs to be thoughtfully curated for each audience and channel. Furthermore, it’s helpful to have company guidelines that make it clear who can post on behalf of the organization, the types of comments they should be posting, and, more importantly, the things they should not be saying or doing on behalf of the organization.

Remember that there’s always a trade-off for the time and effort required to support social tools. The time spent in managing a low-traffic Facebook page is time that can’t be put into a potentially more effective marketing program. Whatever medium you choose will require ongoing feeding and attention—with the right people involved.

There’s another area of investment, too: expertise. If you aren’t using people with the right skills and expertise to deliver a marketing program, you’ll likely wind up spending much more time and money when all is said and done.

Marketer Mike Siegel reminisces that there was a time when everyone had to do a newsletter, whether it was the best tactic or not. “Newsletters often turned into black holes that sucked up resources you never got back,” says Siegel. Once you started, you wound up continuing to feed the beast. To a certain extent, that’s what’s happening with social media today, notes Siegel. Social media are iterative, real-time marketing tactics that can be extremely time consuming if done well. They set expectations for responsiveness, care and feeding, and differentiation. How much of a professional communications person’s time each week does it take to support these initiatives? Are these campaigns worth it?

At CredAbility, Siegel looked at Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Siegel’s team knew there were conversations taking place in the cloud that were topical and relevant to the organization, but they weren’t necessarily in the places one might think. That’s because conversations about credit counseling and financial crisis are very personal and can be quite emotional, even embarrassing. These are not the types of conversations that consumers tend to “like” on Facebook. So rather than driving for more likes, CredAbility started engaging in conversations about how to seek financial help, answering common questions, and polling on relevant topics.

For CredAbility, Twitter became a way to stimulate news media interest on topics and trends and to generate strong media relationships. The organization’s Twitter account was managed by its PR team, while its Facebook presence was managed by the marketing team.

Tomorrow Is Always a Day Away

There’ll always be something new over the horizon if we just wait for tomorrow. When it comes to social sharing platforms, we know there will be new techniques evolving on a regular basis. While you don’t want to jump on every bandwagon that roars into town, you don’t want to sit on the sidelines forever either.

Some of these new platforms will be good, some will be bad. Some will dramatically improve our effectiveness. Others will be ineffective. What’s common to all is that they are all untested and unproven. So how do we move forward? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Jump in and test. See what works for your organization. Do this on a small scale so that you are able to pull the plug if you don’t see results. But know in advance what constitutes “good” results.
  • Watch and wait. See what others are doing. Learn from their mistakes. If it looks like there’s value, consider jumping in yourself.
  • Go where the people are. In ancient times, markets grew up where people were gathering. Follow that logic today. Go where your customers and prospects gather. Watch and listen and see what catches their attention. Use new tools on a case-by-case basis, just as you would use chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant but not for a hamburger and fries.
  • Look for crossover. Often, a new way of communicating will be added to an existing tool. LinkedIn is very different today than it was a few years ago. It has features that are very Facebook- and Twitter-like. Yet it exists for a totally different audience and purpose. Look for creative ways to use existing platforms, without reinventing the wheel.

This post is excerpted from Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters by Linda Popky (Bibliomotion, March 2015).

For more marketing advice from Linda Popky, check out Leverage2Market Associates.

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Social media can help promote your company in a cheap and effective way. Learn how to incorporate more marketing tools with these AMA resources and seminars.
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About The Author

Linda J. Popky is the author of MARKETING ABOVE THE NOISE: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters and president of Leverage2Market Associates, a Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing company that helps transform organizations through powerful marketing performance.

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