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How NOT to Handle Your Company’s Social Media

Quick, somebody call the doctor cause my social media skills are siiiiick! Depending on your generation, you’ll either view that as a good thing or bad thing. I happen to mean it in the Adam-Sandler-thinks-he-got-a-free-Ferrari way (see Bedtime Stories for more information). Your social media skills, on the other hand, may just be plain ol’ sick–diseased, unwell, ailing. Here, let’s do a quick test to determine which type of sickness you have: Do you understand the basic difference between being on social media and doing something on social media? If so; siiiiiick! If not; just sick. If you fall into the latter category, consider this post your social media-cine.

Bottom line? If you are looking for a way to shine on social media, to go above and beyond, to completely outdo your competition and to have a chance at making a real dent in the online universe (and maybe even the rest of the universe as well), this post is for you. If nothing else, you’ll come away with a better understanding of how social media does and does not work.

Overview

  1. Don’t just put your brand on social media–do something with social media. Otherwise you are merely existing.
  2. Never, under any circumstances, at any time, for any reason disappoint your audience. Good first impressions can only be made once.
  3. Creativity is ESSENTIAL. If your company doesn’t bleed creativity, give your culture a transfusion.
  4. Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to social media. Identify your audience and learn to speak their language.
  5. Start kissing your wallet–you have to put your money where your mouth is to market on social media.
  6. If you know no trends, you’ll have no friends. Don’t be “that guy” who calls Facebook an emerging technology 10 years after it emerged.

Social Media is Just Plain Dumb… Without Smart Content

As human beings all people may be created equal, but when it comes to social media managers (from wannabes to professionals and the strategies they employ), the same simply cannot be said. When I hear people who represent a brand, even and especially “communication professionals,” say that they are “on social media,” I cringe. What they really mean is that they have created a Twitter account or Facebook page for their brand (maybe they have even created a Pinboard–woohoo). I think to myself, “Congratulations chief, you exist on a social network. Nay, you merely exist on a social network.” It’s the equivalent of a person who merely exists in life. So what. A rock exists too and so does a landfill, but that doesn’t mean I am going to be particularly interested in them. To really live you have to get out there and do something. It’s the same with social media. Stellar content is what can bring your social media content to life. It’s like the difference between a “smart phone” and a “dumb phone.” Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are  just delivery systems. They are pipes through which information can flow.

Can you see what I’m getting at? Just being on social media means essentially nothing. You have to do something with it. I’ll go even further and say that simply doing the basics on social media (post an update here and a photo there) is nearly just as bad. If that is what you do, seriously, just delete your account right now–or–be content being extremely average, never winning any awards or making a serious difference. There is danger in mere existence… read on.

There’s No Appointment Like Disappointment

When I talk about social media, one of my favorite exercises is this: I come up with a silly competition that will yield a quick winner (such as who has the most Twitter followers, for example) and state that there will be a cash prize. I then proceed to write on the whiteboard (if available) what the envelope I am holding contains. I write a one and say, “There will be one of these,” followed by two circles and state, “And there will be two of these.” Naturally, everyone assumes there is $100 in the envelope. When I hand the lucky winner the prize and ask them to open it, they find a $1 bill with two pennies taped to it. So… there definitely was a one and there were two circles… but not what the poor recipient expected ($100 poorer to be exact–bad joke). As I describe the disappointment the victim must feel, a shared sense of being severely bummed out spreads throughout the room.  And just like that, I’ve illustrated the disappointment people feel when they expect something great from you and get ripped off instead (I give the person a free shirt or other sponsor-supplied prize afterwords… still, not as good as $100).

Lesson? If you have something great going on in the real world (an awesome brick and mortar store, for example) and people jump online and see a website that looks like it came from the beginning of the internet or a social media profile that is beyond lame–if there is any sense of disappointment at all–you just failed big time. You can’t take back a person’s first experience with your brand. If it bombs, you may never see them again or it’s going to be very hard to get them to look at you in a more favorable light. Don’t disappoint. I’ve actually got a friend who can help you accomplish this…

Introducing Mr. Cre A. Tivity

Does his name sound foreign to you? No, he’s not from a different country and yes he wants to be your friend too. This is a very serious metaphorical question: Do you bleed creativity? If not, then the reason is probably because its not built-in to your DNA (or the DNA of your company/organization). It’s not something you can fake, but it is something you desperately need if you want to kill it on social media. Why? People crave creativity (<– you must read this link). In fact, they demand it. You do too, whether you know it or not. If you don’t want to disappoint your audience/customers, you have to be creative. To go from merely existing online to making someone explain, “Wow, this exists?”  requires creativity in large and small doses.

So what does creativity look like in social media? I guess it doesn’t hurt to spruce your profile up a bit, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about content. Here are a few examples. If you aren’t creative, hire someone that is. If you can’t afford to hire someone, start thinking about what you can do that is different than what else is out there. Sometimes creativity is hard to capture–that’s why people who successfully translate creative ideas into reality soar above the competition. It’s rare to encounter. Need to get the creative juices flowing? Fill up your tank with some serious idea fuel.

Me No Talky English

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that translated your business jargon into your target audience’s preferred dialect? By the way, who is your audience? Who do you want to reach with your message/products? And the million-dollar question: can you speak their language? Can you communicate effectively with them? Example: Many Christian churches look more like museums than movements these days. Why? Aging generations, those in control of operations, no longer know how to reach out to younger generations–they don’t speak the same language. I’m not talking about simple slang here. We live in the age of technology where culture gaps intersect with generation gaps to form killer monster gaps that only grow bigger with time. Whoever your audience is, you must reach them how they want to be reached. You must go where they are. You must talk like they talk. Imagine parachuting into another county and not being able to speak the language (I’m picturing China right now, since I can’t speak Chinese). You’d feel pretty out of place, wouldn’t you? You’d probably want to get out of there as soon as possible. You simply can’t communicate without language. Period.

Thanks to social media, you can now micro-target sub-audiences; theres no need to take a shotgun-style approach to marketing these days. In fact, I’d consider that a bit lazy. If you know you want to target 18-24 year olds, you can now easily and relatively inexpensively reach out to both males and females in that same demographic with separate assets. First, though, take the time to understand who you are talking to. Identify not only who your audience is, but what makes them tick: age, gender, habits, needs, wants, culture, pain points, etc… What are they seeing on a daily basis? What would not only make sense to them, but what would stand out to them? And that is where Mr. Cre A. Tivity comes in.

Start Kissing Your Wallet

Why? It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. You want to reach people on social media. Fine, but social media marketing is not as free as you’d like to think. Case in point? Examine my list of 100+ professional social media tools. Click through some of the links. Most aren’t free and many are quite expensive to use. Sure, it’s free to signup for a Twitter or Facebook account, I’ll give you that. But what is the only way to amplify word-of-mouth marketing online? By spending money. Promoting a link on Twitter can cost $120,000 per day. Want to sponsor a content ad on Facebook for a month? Hope you are ready to part with $800,000. It’s time to stop treating social media marketing like an ugly step-child and fork over some money to 1.) pay people who are more creative than you to do creative things on your behalf, 2.) buy some professional social media monitoring and marketing tools/services and 3.) hire writers/designers/videographers to produce high-quality and effective content you can be proud to post. You know the drill: it takes money to make money and that is no different when it comes to social media.

If You Know No Trends, You’ll Have No Friends

I bet that if you and I were to take turns naming social networking platforms one at a time I would stomp you into the ground. Sure, I spend a lot of time researching the subject and do a lot of thinking/writing about social media, but still, if you are tasked with managing your brand’s social media marketing… you should be up on the latest trends. Facebook and Twitter do not count. Even Pinterest is mainstream now. If you know about Path, Pair, OurSpot, Highlight, Sonar, etc… you’re doing better. At least you are current. But what is on the horizon? Where is your audience engaging? There are interest-based networks, location-based networks, private networks for families… the list goes on and on and gets longer every day (so it seems).

I saved this until the end because, while it is very important to know what social networks are available to you and your audience, it doesn’t really mean anything without the principles I’ve already laid out above. To reiterate: it isn’t enough to be on social media… you have to do something (creative) with it.

Your Turn

What do you think? What else should a marketer or brand manager do to be extraordinary on social media? Spill your suggestions and comments now!

EditorHow NOT to Handle Your Company’s Social Media