Friday, October 3, 2008

What does it really take to make social media work for you?

Well, it has now been proven, hands-down, no questions asked, statistics and everything, that you and your business are expected to have an online social media presence. (I'm being facetious, by the way, just in case the hyperbole was laid on too thin)

So, what should you do?

To start, I would avoid these five social media clichés

To paraphrase a bit (and to add a small amount of my own interpretations) these clichés are:

  1. Creating an irrelevant and sparsely updated social networking page.
  2. Creating a surprisingly expensive Second Life storefront.
  3. Using an online ad creative contest instead of coming up with your own creative (and hopefully viral) content.
  4. Creating your own social network (personally, this one surprises me - are companies really trying to out-Facebook Facebook just to have a social media presence? Apparently HSBC Bank, Neutrogena, and Saturn are!)
  5. Presenting an "Online Branded Entertainment Series"
I don't actually see a problem with that last one, really. The only problem is when they're done poorly. You can't fault the idea of it, because some times it's very neat, and very effective.

As a commenter on that post stated, most of these clichés fall under the category of "me too" advertising. That's what makes them a cliché. It's doubly annoying when this happens in social media, because social media is supposed to be so "new" and "up-to-the-minute" and "hip."

(Or something.)

You can't "fake it" with social media and web 2.0. You can't just put your feet in the water to test things out.

And the payoffs of web 2.0 aren't immediate. It takes time to establish yourself. It takes time to figure out exactly which tools to make use of and which ones to scrap or ignore. The web itself is fast and often offers instant results, but success on the web isn't the same thing. And it isn't as fast.

Seth Godin (a while back) pointed out some traps of this in relation to social media:

The trap: Show up at a new social network, invest two hours, be really aggressive with people, make some noise and then leave in disgust.

The trap: Use all your money to build a fancy website and leave no money or patience for the hundred revisions you'll need to do.

The trap: read the tech blogs and fall in love with the bleeding-edge hip sites and lose focus on the long-term players that deliver real value.

The trap: sprint all day and run out of energy before the marathon even starts.

You can see it with blogs all the time. An author starts updating, completely gung-ho, but as time goes on, motivation is lost, updates become less frequent, and before any of the real payoff has come, the blog is abandoned.

To summarize this entire post: In general, consumers feel social media is important, and it takes more than a "me too" 5 minute approach to succeed in it.

So, who's going to dig their heels in and make the effort?