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April 21, 2009

Social Media Mania

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Blogging. Clients often ask what role social media should play in their marketing programs. Some ask the question with skepticism and doubt. Others with the anticipation that this is the magic bullet they’ve been looking for. Both are wrong. Social media is as important to a business’ marketing plan as any other media might be. That is to say, if it reaches the right audience, if it allows you to communicate a message in a clear and engaging way, if it fits with your brand and mission, then…what are you waiting for?

But be aware, unlike more traditional media, there are some new concerns with this new media:

  1. You can’t necessarily market in the social media space the same way you do in traditional advertising. As a marketer, you probably see opportunity. Here are groups of self-defined, like-minded people. Communities with similar interests all congregating in one space. Smells like prime real estate for focused, targeted marketing, right? Think again. Social media mavens are savvy and outspoken. They see these as community-building tools. Opportunities to connect with folks who share their interests. These are social applications, not commercial. Breech their trust and you won’t be forgiven easily. Be inauthentic and you will be excommunicated quickly.
  2. If you think that it’s free to join these social media communities, that this is free advertising, think again. Marketing in the social media realm is more similar to a public relations program than a paid advertising campaign, and likewise, it would benefit you tremendously to use professional marketers to help you navigate the media, explore the opportunities and craft an appropriate strategy. Then, it’s up to you or someone in your organization to continue to make the investment in posting, tweeting, blogging or responding. Go dormant and your audience will go away…with a bad impression of you and your organization. So don’t jump on the social media bandwagon just because you think it’s a cheap way to advertise. Jump on because it’s right for you and you’re willing to make the appropriate investment of time and budget.
  3. One thing that I caution everyone about is that in the social media world, there is a fine line between the professional and the personal. And often, I believe there is no line at all. With the accessibility of information on the Internet in general, it is getting harder and harder to market your company without prospective clients or customers getting to know an awful lot about you personally. In the social media space, this is even more of an issue. If you twitter everyday and your goal is to promote your professionalism and credibility as a businessperson, keep your tweats from venturing into the personal. If you’re going to have a presence on Facebook, it will be hard to separate your professional from your personal, hard not to intermingle the two. The bottom line is that if you’re into social media, people want to hear from you as a person, not your company or organization, so there has to be personalization, but know where to draw the line and be careful not to step over it.

Here’s what I do think social media is great for:

-       Letting people hear your unique voice

-       Opening the lines of communication so you can hear directly from your customers, clients and constituents

-       Showcasing your point-of-view and your in-depth knowledge of your industry

-       Allowing people to get to know you before they work with you

-       Generating name awareness and broadening your referral network

-       Demonstrating your willingness to share your “gifts,” your knowledge and insight for the benefit of anyone willing to tune in

-       Showing that you and your organization are in tune with how people communicate and congregate these days. That reflects positively on your progressiveness as an organization

-       Getting in front of prospective employees

So, what are the next steps? Start playing. Check out all the different social media opportunities. See what your colleagues and competitors are doing, talk to professionals. (Diane is a great person to call!) And then, like with any marketing effort, formulate a plan and follow through. Also, remember, in most cases social media doesn’t replace other marketing vehicles it supplements them. Just be sure to maintain a connection and continuity within your plan and between the various media, and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for.

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