Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 6 Social Media Myths Businesses Believe

Here's a few things I hear often when talking to clients, usually things they hear from other agencies or from the well meaning soccer-mom in HR who runs a Facebook Page for her kids junior school. God deliver us from the half-informed and their SM knowledge based on Radio 4 sound bites. Having worked on social channels for Ripley's Believe it or Not!, by immersion in the genre alone I feel qualified to highlight the Top 6 Social Media Myths Businesses Believe.

Draw me like one of those French girls.

We NEED to be on LinkedIn.

*sigh* Do you? Do you really? Why?

If I had a pound for every time I'd heard someone say this (or that they NEED to be on ANY channel) I'd have a sock full of pound coins to beat them with. Channels are strategy agnostic. Ok, maybe if you're a print company with loads of spare time (as an individual) to do all the networking and outreach on LinkedIn then this could be interesting for you, maybe, but without proper strategy you've no way of knowing. Without proper strategy this is just throwing mud against the wall and seeing what sticks.

You don't NEED to be on a certain social network unless you've clearly examined your goals and objectives, turned them into tactics, looked at your brand voice, considered your limitations and assets, and given this some serious thought. Maybe you can get better outreach and a faster response, for a lesser time commitment, on Twitter?

Do the work, or let people like me do it for you, then decide.

If you build it, they will come.

Eat me. You know you want to.
No, they won't. Trust me, unless you put the time and effort in your Facebook Page is going to stay as quiet as an angels fart, forever.

Sure, if you're Disney Florida they'll come, but you're not working for the mouse and no body cares about your brand unless you start caring about them, give something away, provide an invaluable service, or come up with something special.

I often use the same analogy -

Nobody is going to follow 'Joe Bloggs Bacon'. Everyone and their dog will follow 'I love a Bacon Sandwich, sponsored by Bloggs Bacon'.

BOOM, something people can actually relate to. That'll boost the numbers. Then we deliver daily fun bacony related facts, recipes, bacon pics and vids to boost that EdgeRank and Retweets. Develop a #bacontastic world-cook-off hashtag event, register in the pork products section of Twitter directories, stick the logos on your packaging and link and embed from your website. Reach out to people asking bacon questions and give them bacon answers, and experiment with some social ads targeted at cured meat fans. Offer a 'win your own weight in Bloggs Bacon' sweepstake (or 'spa days' and 'iPads', trust me, everyone loves either spa days or the latest Apple product) and a few money off coupons, mention social in your traditional PR, generate some viral content like bacon factoid infographics, nose-to-tail outback engine block cooking tips, build and video a Skyrim bacon helmet, etc., the list goes on. Did you know that bacon possesses 6 ingredient types of umami, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response? - basic boolean Google research'll tell you this stuff, it's not rocket-science. Anyway, this is how a community grows. You need to put in time, effort, and imagination, or all you'll have is a fan page full of offal.

It'll only take 5 minutes a day.

Er, no.

Maybe one Twitter post will, if you're already logged in and know what you're going to say. This isn't simply updating your status and clinking 'like' on a few baby pictures. This is business. Let's just do some VERY basic maths here based on (literally 100's of) social channels I've been involved with over the past 6 years. This is the MINIMUM stuff for Facebook and Twitter (the two popular ones that feature in most businesses on-line campaigns):

Facebook: minimum 3 posts a week: research, set-up, image gathering (remember ATE: Always Think Edgerank), not including any content creation like writing a blog post, this is just the basics: 45 minutes.

Twitter: minimum 3 posts a day, 7 days a week: research, set-up, image gathering, hastag research, basic answering of questions and queries (let's say you get just one every other day) with no outreach: 105 minutes.

Social Media on a Student Budget.
So just to keep two channels ticking over that's 2 and a half hours a week. This is total no frill social media. No proper engagement or outreach, just broadcasting news and products and trying to be of use to people by having interesting stuff to say. Now lets add in some of the good (but still basic) stuff:

1 original feature length blog post (a bit smaller than this one) with research and image sourcing: 3 hours.

1 custom image or Infographic: from 20 minutes to 6+ hours, depending on complexity. If you want original viral content add another hour (at least) for research. Add another 10 minutes to post it to Pinterest, and another 10 minutes per researched image after that to make your Pinterest up to 3 images a day (so of value to your followers). Yada, yada.

Client outreach on Twitter. Finding people asking questions on what your business does, answering them, generally being unassumingly awesome to people etc.: at least an hour a day.

Another channel, lets say just replicating content to Google Plus or LinkedIn from your Facebook (nothing original, even though it should be) about 10 minutes per post per channel.

Need I go on? There's also all the 'keeping up with how the channels are evolving' and on top of changing interfaces and all the things and tricks you can do, plus 'distraction time' (omg, kittens!) to consider as well. Businesses should do the maths, look at their assets, and either do it properly, get help, or know their limitations and act accordingly. Social takes time and effort, or frankly it's not worth bothering (you'll just look like you don't care in front of your audience if you can't put the time and assets in required).

Blogging is dead.

No, no, no, n-no, no, no. You're thinking of print.

Journalism, good research/writing, and unique content are the hottest damn things on the Internet. Any one who tries to tell you different is as mad as a bag of cats.

Blogging is the backbone of content marketing, and content marketing is is the growing art of talking with business customers (without selling). It's about writing good content (blogging) about things that your potential clients will care about (all that lovely redistributable long-tail) while providing a service to them by default, thus attracting them to your blog/website where you keep all your other goodies (that happen to be for sale).

Hail to the king. Only Ash and Content are king.
Businesses are getting increasingly aware that their once couch-potato cash-cows are getting sceptical. Actually, we've been sceptical for a while. We all know when someone is trying to advertise at us. We've pretty much shut ourselves off to the traditional world of marketing. We all own a magic box that skips the TV advertising, we deftly thumb past magazine ads, and we've become so adept at online "surfing" that we flick over information without a passing thought for banners or buttons - making them almost totally irrelevant (unless you subscribe a positive value to subliminal branding), animated or otherwise.

Savvy business marketers know that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute. We all need to get to grips with the notion that there has to be a better way. Thought leaders, futurists, marketing experts, and self styled on-line gurus/ninjas/mavens around the globe are saying that content marketing isn't just the future, it's the present. It's all about content, and blogging is a massive part of this ongoing and evolving process. The more often a business publishes new and useful content on their blog, the more successful their blog is likely to be and the more often it'll get trawled by search engines. What's not to love? In the words of Bill Gates, “Content is King.”

Break the mold, Be different. Blog outside the box.

If you're a stationary company and you're releasing a new bigger box of paper don't write about your new bigger box of paper, that's just dull and hardly anyone is going to care. Add some entertainment value. Talk about recycling? How about an article on Papyrophobia, or perhaps stationary fetishism? Too much? Well, anyway, you get the gist. Find your angle, and if necessary apply it to your product. Every link you publish on social channels that links back to your blog/website or solid piece of content shared is pure fried cold. Blogging is far from dead, in fact (in my humble opinion) it may well be the future of organic SEO.

Social Media ROI is hard to measure.

Ok, here we go again, one more time for the hard of understanding.

Go back to your goals. What does your specific business consider a win? Whatever it is, it's the steps towards that which your company should be measuring. For example (based on some of my previous clients):

Size is important. Apparently.
You're a visitor attraction in central London. You want to use social media to drive 'foot fall' (boost visitor numbers). Using a capture and engage tactic, you keep your fan base up to date on topical related issues and engaged in your subject matter/venue news, then push events and deals to them. You measure those who click 'Yes, I'm coming', count vouchers and voucher codes used, keep and eye on the uptake of any FourSquare promos, and you have point of sale questioners asking people how they found out about the event (essentially, folks with clipboards doing quick 1-1 surveys in return for a small gift etc. and social media channels as individual options).

You're an alcohol brand from So Cal. You want to use social media to demonstrate to the buyers at 'Target' that your brand has a following. Using a branding tactic and strong engagement tactic, you give your fan base ownership by getting them to choose new names for wines, pick label designs, etc. and get them talking about how and why and with whom they drink wine - making a much more general fun community that just a single brand outlet. In this instance you want to prove numbers. You want to be able to say to Target that "We have XXXXXX loyal fans, XXXXXX of which talk on our Facebook Page every week and if we ran a voucher offer with you guys it would reach XXXXXXXX people". On a personal note I've seen this measurement/tactic work particularly well for several authors I've worked with in securing them a publisher - "Look, I have XXXXXX fans following my online stories and clamouring for my novel" etc.

You're a small artisan bakery/sandwich shop in a UK city. You want to use social media to bring people to the shop or to order by phone/online/Twitter, and to get them to buy on a regular basis. You want to make a point of contact with people, and to listen to your customers. You're involved locally with local small business issues, so you're going to use some small business news and you've got time to do some 1-1 outreach. Perhaps all you need to measure here is people who say hi and show you they follow you on Twitter in order to get free coffee? Want to go further, how about an online questioner with a voucher code for a free cup cake? Better still, how about measuring reaction to 1-1 communication? When you speak to local people via local channels are they then coming into the shop and claiming their "free muffin to cheer them up cos they having a bad day"? Can you show immediate growth in sales of croissant (no matter how small) after you took 2 minutes to Tweet out a picture of them coming hot out of the oven? (#comeandgetit)

You're a high quality bespoke lighting company specialising in luxury homes and public spaces. You're relatively new to market and, using content from your PR efforts, your goal is to strengthen your brand in the marketplace and encourage positive press coverage. You decide 'reach' is going to be the best way to measure success. You generate valuable (to your end purchaser, not your peer group) custom content and distribute it as part of your ongoing online marketing, using social to spread it. You can measure people who can see your content directly through your social channels, friends of people who share your content, through your forward-to-a-friend feature on your blog, via people clicking through from your email marketing, all in one metric. Looking at how engaged your audience with your content will give you a good idea of what's working via 'social shares' (i.e., retweets, likes) and the level of your content. Did your audience feel connected with your article on low maintenance pool lighting enough to share it with their networks? Should you be talking about home project budgeting instead? NB: Interactions with your brand are not always generated as responses to your content. Don't forget to look at what's being said about the product that's not being generated by you.

Anyway, you get the gist, right? Every 'win' is different. In short, just think about it. Why are you doing this? What value are you seeking? Not every number will be interesting to you. Go back to your core goals. What do you want to get out of this? You need to find the numbers and customer actions that are important to what you're trying to achieve, and measure that.

Social doesn't work for B2B, only B2C. 

B2B Social: go tell it on de mountain.
Why, because B2B's use robots and not people?

Ok, sure, you have to be strategic (but you should be being strategic anyway). Some of the best campaigns I've seen are B2B campaigns, and they work, especially utilizing outreach. Again 'content is king' here. Video, graphical, blog, all specifically aimed at the user-base. Most businesses have a social presence nowadays, and so you can speak to them directly. If they are working as hard as you are in social then they are listening, and your brand and their brand can communicate.

Blogging is the most effort, but the highest return in social media for business to business. Blogs are a great option for creating brand awareness, connections, and building communities of trust and engagement. 
For lead generation, LinkedIn is probably the most effective social media outlet - if you have the time to go connection delving and be a part of the groups and communities. I'm a big fan of targeted video in this area, and a exponent of the services of the Wooshii creative community for making it happen. If you have no clue where to start these guys can sort you out for minimal expenditure. For some raw stats I'm a big fan of this article in Social Media Examiner - How B2B Marketers Use Social Media: New Research by Phil Mershon - and I'd only be duplicating facts from the same report if I didn't just push you there instead. Just think about some of the tactics you can use to reach out to other firms: how about using Q&A networks to boost your thought leadership, reach out and answer peoples questions and start conversations, and push that branded content (also via RSS) towards the specialist press (which reminds me, I'm rather liking 'Help a Reporter Out' as a more online/trad way for generating a bit of press coverage right now).

So, there you have it. The top 6 things I hear that businesses still believe about social. Everything above is based on facts, not myths. If you’ve set your goals and properly planned a measurable campaign, all things are possible.

If you think of any more, let me know. I feel a sequel coming already, and it's only Monday morning...