“New Comm Road Map” was the name of a regular segment of my former communications podcast, New Comm Road.
Peter Kim writes that social media has the power to transform business.
And he’s right.
Amber Naslund says that it’s time to move from the why of using social media to the how.
And she’s right.
But … it’s often not that simple.
For as anxious as many of us inside the social media bubble are to elevate discussions beyond the grade-school basics that we’ve been preaching over and over for the last three or four years, there are plenty of businesses that are still taking baby steps and need Social Media 101-type hand-holding and education.
Want some examples?
- How about the Belkin employee who was offering to pay Mechanical Turks for fake, positive reviews on Amazon.com? He obviously missed the lesson on transparency.
- Or the companies that worry whether they should comment on a blog post with negative and false information? Answer: Sometimes (For a guide to deciding when and how to respond with blog comments, refer to the outstanding Air Force Blog Assessment flowchart).
- Or the organizations that are asking for Introduction to Blogging presentations and workshops? I am delivering one — and possibly two — of those sessions within the next month alone.
- Almost nobody (16%) trusts corporate blogs. That tells me that most blogging business still operate with one of of these two mentalities: 1) We don’t want to rock the boat and piss anyone off, so we’ll publish a largely vanilla blog — but, hey, we’re blogging! 2) Our blog is our blog, so let’s make sure we talk mostly about ourselves. (Is it any wonder why these blogs aren’t worth our time to read?)
The reality, for better or for worse, is that many companies are anxious to embrace creative and groundbreaking social media programs that Peter and Amber rightly advocate for, but others are nowhere ready to do so and need to spend 2009 getting their social feet wet.
So just how should more experienced social media marketers and PR pros, consultants and evangelists operate in this duality? Here’s my road map:
Keep the Social Media 101 lessons going strong
A wise digital marketing friend once said that the point at which we’re sick of hearing ourselves repeat the social media basics is the moment when those lessons finally start to sink in and reach the masses. Recognition of the potential power of social media reaches companies at different speeds, and new, enthusiastic employees are pushing their own organizations to jump into social media every day.
Keep beating the drum.
Push the more experienced companies to take the next step
So your company or client is blogging, podcasting, and engaging with customers and community members on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. That’s a good start, but what’s next?
Challenge these organizations to answer hard questions about how social media meets their business goals. Take the ROI question seriously, as Kyle Flaherty does; track and expand what works. Rethink, reshape, or abandon what doesn’t.
Share what you’ve done
Yes, there are lists of companies and brands that are using social media for marketing, PR, and community building. But there’s still a dearth of detailed, thoughtful, and inspirational social media case studies from companies, either because they’re not properly measuring their efforts or because they insist on keeping their successes and failures close to the vest.
Whether as a white paper, blog post, or conference presentation, talk about how your social media programs are making a difference (or not) for your business, and what you’ve learned along the way.