More Middle East brands are looking seriously at using social media in their communications and making efforts to plan, structure and invest in strategic activities. It’s no secret that Spot On PR is a big fan of social media and actively recommends that all organisations pay attention to the irreversible changes that social media are bringing to business communications. However, no two companies are the same and we have no ready-made proposals for what social media tactics organisations should use and we would caution company’s against trying to copycat as an alternative to proper planning, particularly if your organisation is a large one. Learning from others social media efforts can be extremely valuable, but not as a replacement for having your own strategy. Equally, beware of one-size-fits-all social media campaign solutions. Here are some common social media myths that are worth being aware of.
1. Social media is cheap.
It certainly can be, but as with many things in life and business, you get out of social media what you put into it. Low budget, low effort social media campaigns have their place, but success usually means more audience engagement and more engagement means that more management and resources are required. Scale is obviously a key factor in influencing costs if you already have a large audience online, don’t expect an intern with a new Twitter profile to be the best way of managing conversations, enquiries and complaints: you’re going to need to have a system in place.
2.You have to be on Facebook!
There are lots of good reasons why it might make perfect sense for your organisation to have a Facebook fan page. However, bear in mind that Facebook is littered with the inactive pages of companies that started a Facebook page because everyone else did. If you can’t think of a good reason why your customers would sign-up for your Facebook page, or what you could post on it beyond company press releases then your brand may be better off without one.
3.You have to be on ‘X’ (where X is a social media platform).
Social media platforms will come and go. Whether they make sense for your business will depend on whether your brand can engage effectively with relevant audiences on them or not. Finding out where your key audiences spend time online is a good first step for any campaign.
4. More connections = more success.
This is obviously partly true, but there are limited returns in investing in indiscriminately increasing the number of social media connections that your brand has. There are many ways of enticing social media users to connect or sign-up for pages, but real engagement is about how audiences interact with you, not passively remain connected to a page or profile they never visit. Focus on making the connections that matter.
5. You have to be ‘cool’.
Of course, everyone likes a cool brand. However, if you’re providing a business-to-business product or service, don’t expect teenage SMS-style messages to resonate with your target audiences. Communicate with your brand’s stakeholders in the way that they expected to be communicated with. Don’t translate all your communications into SMS, MSN or Twitterese!
6.You can automate everything.
Beware of “experts” telling you how to automate your whole social media campaign. Plans are good. Social media tools are good. Any tools to help with content management are good. Frameworks and policy documents are good. And you will find some time-saving practices. However, at the end of the day, people respond best when communicated with personally. If your customers, partners and other important audiences expect to communicate with a real person, don’t give them an RSS feed that SPAMs them thirty times a day instead. If you’re not continuously in dialogue (versus simply broadcasting your messages), then you’ve sort of missed the whole point of social media.
7.You have to have a blog.
A blog is a communications tool like any other. Blogs can be very useful and a provide a cost effective way of publishing information and getting feedback. However, not every business has the content or writing skills to maintain a blog to quality, and many businesses still need to cater for less Internet-savvy audiences that are more reliant on the press, broadcast media and email for their information. Invest your social media efforts where you’re going to be able to drive the best results. If a blog makes the most sense from a content, audience and a resource point of view, then blog away!
8. Social media campaigns replace advertising.
For sure, the open access to information, viral nature and sharing capabilities of social media are forcing significant changes on the world of advertising. Advertising is having to shift its focus from broadcasting brand messages to creating platforms for dialogue with consumers. However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here! Don’t mistake resistance to advertising for resistance to irrelevant advertising. Social media hasn’t replaced email marketing either, but you’re only going to get an increasing tide of negativity if you insist on spamming your audience over and over in an effort to increase your email response rates.
9. If you have budget, you don’t need to do it yourself.
Agencies can play a pivotal role in helping your brand leverage social media platforms within the scope of your brand’s communications (but then I would say that, wouldn’t I!). By their very nature agencies gain insights into how different campaigns are implemented for different clients and so can provide useful third party advice for brands planning campaigns. Your agency should be able to help you plan, focus and manage your social media activities for maximum returns, but subcontracting the running of your social media profiles, blogs and other social media tools to your agency in their entirety is a short term fix at best. Your customers think they’re connecting with you, not your agency. Even if your campaign is heavily agency-assisted, plan on being directly involved day-t0-day.
10. It’s not all about “the conversation”.
Thanks to the Cornwall SEO blog for this one. Taking your brand onto social media should take place within a pre-defined framework that allows your brand to both promote itself and take part in conversations with key audiences. Being part of “the conversation” on any social media platform, knowing how to engage other users and being, well, social is a pre-requisite. However, being part of the conversation probably isn’t your most important objective. So, while you’re tracking your followers, conversations and social media engagement metrics, try to remember your original objectives. How many people have you reached? How many sales leads have you generated? How many customers have you engaged with? How many customer service issues have you solved? How many new visits did you drive to your website? That was the whole point, right?
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Are you engaging with the right fans? (May 2010)
The coolest agency in the world (February 2010)
Social media measurement (November 2009)
Social media isn’t socialist media (November 2009)
Social media takes time (November 2009)
Tags: advertising, agencies, Blogging, blogs, Carrington Malin, communications, Content, conversations, CRM, customer service, direct marketing, email, Facebook, Internet, marketing, marketing communications, myths, online, planning, public relations, social media, social networking, strategy, Twitter