Companies can have good or bad social media strategies. Good ones are based on respect for their customers and prospect. Bad ones are based on one way communications a la megaphones. Some strangely blend the two. Yet, there is a strategy worse that yelling “buy my stuff!” It’s a business practice so bad that you have to keep looking at it like some horrific accident cleverly designed by Mel Brooks. Horrific, but you giggle when you see it – because they don’t see how awful it is until it costs millions.
Social media is where social interactions and technology meet. It is words, photos, videos, drawings – all the building blocks of ideas shared in an online social setting like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, NING, Flickr, etc.
These online collaborative environments are the platforms where ideas and sentiments are being shared. If you want to fit in, be social. If you want to stand out, be social and share your own thoughts. If you want to stand alone, pretend you are at a dinner party, and you “spam” the conversation by loudly selling your wares while others try to talk. Some people still play this game knowing that for every million people you reach, there will be a few people who say “yes.” This numbers game does nothing to further the community. These people are marginalized by the long-time members of the community.
The simple strategy in business is to be social. Be social about eight times to every single business released message. I know this is not “normal” marketing, primarily because it is closer to the dinner party than a store. People trying to be social don’t care if it’s the end of the month and you need sales. Social media is not a sales channel; it’s a conversation channel. It’s where people find and share ideas and information and IS where word-of-mouth lives. (Your web site is your sales channel).
But even this “sell, sell, sell” error is not the biggest “FAIL” in a business social media strategy.
In Mel Brooks’ western-comedy “Blazing Saddles”, Gene Wilder tries to comfort Cleavon Little by explaining, “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”
The “common clay” of the new media in the business community are those who willfully ignore the billions (with a B) of daily social media users on computers and mobile devices around the world. If an individual chooses not to participate, that is fine. If a business chooses to ignore the word of mouth being spoken by their customers, about their products – well, that’s just bad business.
There is clearly a shift in how people get their information.
Once it was the town crier and storytelling, then newspapers, later radio and television. Now the Internet made real-time information a reality, and mobile devices make them portable. This is true, unless you willfully ignore the conversations.
According to Gartner, members of “Generation Virtual” are their first generation not tied by an age, sex or economic demographic. They are bound by their ability to see someone around the world as accessible and relevant to their network as their next door neighbor. The internet is a natural extension of their personal network. If you cannot relate to them, don’t worry. They’re talking about you anyway.
Ignoring the tens of millions of U.S.-based daily content creators (or hundreds of millions of social media users) is like putting your hands over your ears and singing music from “The Producers.” Ignoring people instead of engaging them is truly the worst error a business can make.
Companies can set up a “listening post” to social media networks. Hire competent people to react appropriately. Grow your business by allowing customers to speak well of you and to take pride in your brand. They will take pride in brands or even local companies that they support.
Ultimately, this new relationship will help you meet customer needs faster and at lower costs.
These people who are discussing your brand are the Kings – existing and prospective customers. Listen to them and don’t ignore them.
If we’ve learned anything from Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the King.”