What part of SOCIAL in social media is so hard to understand?




'Social media is a great way to get your message out'

'The key to being successful on Twitter is having a lot of followers'

'I just want to use my blog to promote my business'

I've read and heard the above and similar quotes from business owners in the past few months. And they really help drive home for me the great divide that exists between how companies approach social media, and how users/customers actually use these sites and tools.

And some recent studies back this up, such as this one from Forrester Research about B2B blogging. The study offers that many companies are struggling with their blogging efforts, and proposes this solution:
B2B marketers should embrace strategies prominently used by mainstream bloggers to attract readers, build conversations, and engage community members in sharing their experiences with their online peers, the report's author advises.


In order words, if a company wants to successfully utilize social media to grow their business, they need to use these tools and sites in the same way that the people that they are trying to reach.

Here is a quote from my friend CK's speech during Blogger Social:
The lesson that social media has taught me? Now that we're all connected and empowered to easily share our views and viewpoints, the world isn't getting flatter...it's getting smaller. And the lesson that this community has taught me? The world needs to start acting like it.

Because we act like it every single day.

Note the disconnect. When talking about social media, many companies focus on keywords such as 'followers', 'promote' and 'reach'. While the people that are immersed in these tools everyday, use terms like 'connected', 'empowered' and 'share'.

If you want to successfully use social media to grow your business, you MUST remember this: social media sites and tools are COMMUNICATION channels, not BROADCAST channels.

The quickest way to fail with social media, is to use these wonderful tools to push a message at your audience. If you want to concern yourself with targeting the right 'keywords' on your blog (another concern I've heard from blogging businesses), then focus on these; sharing, interacting, communicating, and empowering.

Focus on using these tools as your customers do, and for the same reasons. Otherwise, you're just broadcasting.


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:40 AM,

17 Comments:

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Amber Naslund said...

Mack,
I think a factor here is that companies don't understand that blatant messaging isn't always the way to build your brand. More subtle connections with customers like trust and yes, even friendship, are hard for corporations to jam into their key messaging. Companies and the people that manage the brands need to put some trust back in the hands of their customers, and realize that they are smart enough to find, see, and communicate the benefits of their product/service without having the messaging spoon fed to them. Instead, make them know and love the *people* behind your company, what you stand for and why you're in business, and the brand values spread themselves.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger Frank Conrad Martin said...

Very well said, Mack, as usual. I think many companies want to be "social", but have a hard time controlling the conversation that way - someone might say something "critical"!

It's a new game today, and we have to help our clients understand that!

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger AaronMSB said...

Thanks for sharing this Mack. After the Plurkshop on the downside of social media, I came up with some similar realizations about the the way social media is used and should be used. I was worried, and still am, that if members of the general public have a bad experience with companies that simply broadcast, or don't utilize the conversational aspect of social media, then they'll be "turned off" and won't participate in the conversation with the people who are actually trying to use social media "correctly." Do you think we can turn those people back on to social media or are they lost forever?

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Sonny Gill said...

Nice post, Mack. It's fairly simple in theory but companies just can't stand giving up control..and really don't understand that it's ok to let go.

Amber makes a great point on trust. Its a two-way street that consumers are willing to go down but on the flip, there's companies that are a long way from even taking the first step.

 
At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Lewis Green said...

Mack,

When talking with a client about Social Media, I have no problem using words such as followers, promote and reach, because it is their language and, at the end of the day, we should use words they understand. However, to succeed, as you rightly point out, we need to think words such as connected, empowered and share and create stratgegies that achieve the latter. First, however, we have to get hired to do good. That often means using words clients relate to.

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous John Carson said...

"The key to being successful on Twitter is having a lot of followers."

Quite the reverse, actually. Who cares about my Tweets when they're lost in the scrum?

I prefer to follow as many relevant people as I can, and see what they're up to -- that helps my business in the long run, personally and professionally.

Cheers,
John Carson
Senior Digital Media Specialist
GCI Canada

 
At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Connie Reece said...

Well said, Mack. I preach this every time I teach a workshop or seminar. If the companies can't see the value of communication rather than broadcasting, they're doomed to fail in the social media space. And not only will *they* fail, they discourage others from even trying by giving them a reason to think social media doesn't work.

 
At 1:09 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Companies and the people that manage the brands need to put some trust back in the hands of their customers, and realize that they are smart enough to find, see, and communicate the benefits of their product/service without having the messaging spoon fed to them."

Right Amber, this is another pet peeve of mine, I think companies are really missing the boat on using social media to reach, embrace and empower their customer evangelists. BIG opportunities there!

 
At 1:12 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Frank I agree, we still have to be able to explain to our clients how to properly implement social media initiatives in a way that helps them realize their larger business goals.

Aaron, I think when companies use social media correctly, it doesn't come across as promotional(cause it really isn't), and people will be more open to them. It can be something as simple as responding to a blog/Twitter complaint about a product.

 
At 1:13 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"When talking with a client about Social Media, I have no problem using words such as followers, promote and reach, because it is their language and, at the end of the day, we should use words they understand. However, to succeed, as you rightly point out, we need to think words such as connected, empowered and share and create stratgegies that achieve the latter. First, however, we have to get hired to do good. That often means using words clients relate to."

Lewis I agree completely on talking in a language that companies understand. I think we need to use these words to get their attention, then we can work to correct bad behavior.

 
At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Ann Handley said...

Well said, Mack. Of course, another part of being social is listening... which seems like an approach lots of companies discount, yet one of the most valuable pieces of "social media."

 
At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Ricardo Bueno said...

I LOVE the title of this post! It's too often that people forget the SOCIAL in "social media." That's what connecting is all about! Social media tools simply make the business type more approachable. You still have to be social to connect with your client...drop the hard sell already...

 
At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Nathan Snell said...

Couldn't agree more, Mack.

I just met with a small business owner the other day who I was explaining components of social media to. Almost her exact words were as you describe. "I just want to use XYZ to gain new clients or promote my company."

After explaining how that mentality won't work well in this medium, her response was also common of "That sounds like it takes a lot of time." Usually followed (as it was) "You mean I have to talk to each individual?"

The sad thing is in part what Amber said as well. Companies are looking at the medium as strictly a self promotional or client gaining tool and missing the other half of the boat where these tools can be utilized to empower their customers to evangelize (or connect) their passion.

 
At 3:57 PM, Anonymous Jackie Huba said...

Mack,
Great post! Part of the issue is that most people are used to doing programs that they can measure. It's pretty hard to find a good measure for subtle things like "connecting", "empowering" and "engaging" customers. I think those who use social media successfully today still lies with those who are true believers vs. those who can analytically measure results.

 
At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Eric Brown said...

Mack, Excellent Post
It is a challenge not to slip into the Broadcast Mode, particularly when we experience bumps and curves; it is easy to resort to old habits, even if they never were very effective. Your point “The quickest way to fail with social media, is to use these wonderful tools to push a message at your audience, then focus on these; sharing, interacting, communicating, and empowering” is alarming, not because it is hard but there isn’t anyone there pointing out what you are doing wrong, you just wake up one day and a portion of your customer base has evaporated and you wonder why. Treading through the Social Media waters, it is a little confusing on what to do and how to do it when using our Best Customer, in our individual case, our Best Residents, the identified Influencers to Lease Apartments for us, and they are. The challenge is they do it when and how they best see fit, and on their schedule, not ours. This is not business as usual, and so if a company begins to rely at least in part on Turning Within to sell, lease, or whatever applies, and say the requirement for additional sales or leases increase, it isn’t like you can put pressure on your customer to increase their output!

 
At 10:06 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

"Great post! Part of the issue is that most people are used to doing programs that they can measure. It's pretty hard to find a good measure for subtle things like "connecting", "empowering" and "engaging" customers. I think those who use social media successfully today still lies with those who are true believers vs. those who can analytically measure results."

Jackie I agree, we need better ways to measure ROI and bottom-line impact. But that's also the beauty of social media, it makes EXISTING processes more efficient. It allows for more interaction with customers, which leads to better understanding, which leads to more efficient marketing.

So other business functions enjoy ancillary benefits from a successful social media initiative.

 
At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a young 20-something, working at an ad agency - this is all slightly humorous to me. Watching the clients and higher ups trying to figure out how to use "social" media.

There isn't a quick fix. You can't just pop a spot into primetime or put a coupon in the paper.

It DOES take time. You do HAVE to really utilize the space, as Mack says. It's NOT easy. But if they don't do it - they're all doomed to reach my generation.

Like I've said - the grass is growing, keep waiting to mow it and it will just get longer. The earlier the better.

 

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