How to always be behind the social media curve

A few weeks ago I was talking to a company that lamented to me that everyone was buzzing about Twitter, and they knew nothing about it. 'I think we need to hire someone that understands Twitter', was their suggested solution.

But yesterday, something big happened in the social media world; Facebook bought Friendfeed. Guess what? The person they just hired that understands Twitter, had better understand Facebook and Friendfeed as well, or else they are back to being behind again.

Companies that are scrambling to 'catch up' when it comes to social media need to understand this; Don't focus on understanding how to use the individual tools, focus on understanding WHY people are using the tools. Why is Twitter so popular? Why did Facebook want to buy Friendfeed? What does the rise in popularity of these tools mean for usage of other social media tools such as blogs and podcasts?

Companies, when you are hiring people to fill your social media positions, or when you are thinking about outsourcing your social media needs, hire someone that can help you understand WHY the tools work and why people are using them. If you hire a 'Twitter expert', what happens when everyone leaves Twitter for Facebook? Then you need to hire a 'Facebook expert'. Or you can stop chasing the individual tools, and hire someone that understands HOW and WHY the tools work, and work for your customers.


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:23 AM,

26 Comments:

At 8:58 AM, Blogger sschablow said...

Mack, a simple but very effective way to look at it. People tend to gravitate, even obsess, about the tools and then they seem to think they've got it covered. You're so right that to use them effectively you must master the complexities of human behavior and interaction - more psychology and sociology than technical expertise. There are plenty of tutorials for learning technical functionality of the tools.

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Jeffrey said...

Very good point, Mack. We tend to get "locked in" mentally to existing social media networks (and other technologies, come to think of it), forgetting that these services and networks can change or even shut down very unexpectedly.

It's much better to understand the underlying concept of the social web than to focus solely on this service or that one.

 
At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Cheryl Smith said...

You're absolutely right Mack. Technologies are created and changing so rapidly that it's difficult to stay on top of every single tool before one becomes yesterday's fad. Understanding how to engage people via the tools will transcend mergers and acquisitions.

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger Lee McKnight Jr. said...

Another nice post Mack-would love for you to extrapolate more on some of those "why's" in a general sense.

 
At 9:13 AM, Blogger Debra Ellis said...

Mack,

You make a great point. I'd take it a step further and say that the person hired should also understand customer behavior and analytics. Social media isn't a good fit for every company.

Customer participation should drive every corporate social media strategy. If a company's customers aren't using social media tools, then the company should be in listening mode. If customers are actively involved, then the company should be too.

It seems that there is too much "follow the leader" (or each other) and not enough "how does this fit our culture?" strategizing.

 
At 9:16 AM, Blogger Jessica Soulliere said...

Hallelujah! When we first began our foray into social media a couple of years ago, it was like I was being asked to open a bag of flour and toss it into the wind. It wasn't about why it was important or what people wanted or needed us to do with it, but about just doing it, and it's been one hell of a recovery ever since.

 
At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Rob Murray said...

Amen to that!

Social media is a just a marketing channel. Facebook & Twitter and what ever comes along in 2015 are all just marketing tools.

The customer and the message are always the 2 most important things and that will never change!

 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Jeremiah Staes said...

From field experience, the vast majority of decision makers look at social media as an IT/technical problem, not a marketing one, even handing off blogging to the network admin. Some stats show that over half of businesses STILL don't have a website.. let alone social media.

We're living on the cutting edge; when most are still updating via FrontPage.

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Rich Reader said...

Tell it like it is, Mack, truth to superstition.

Tool centrism is a disease, a serious case of brand loyalty by users who don't understand why that loyalty is deserved in their own situation. The greater irony is that these brand loyalists are typically traditional marketers who think that they're jumping on a bandwagon, while in reality they are falling off the pumpkin cart.

WOM-buzz richreader.blogspot.com

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Jenesys group said...

Interesting. Give before you get works well when you thing about social media.

One needs to master the art of human interaction :)

-Jenesys
http://www.jenesysgroup.com

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous hhotelconsult said...

The platform for this new communication myopically called "social media" are simply tools to perform this communication. The platforms will change in the blink of an eye... people think FB is a powerhouse, and users migrated from the former impenetrable MySpace that is still bleeding jobs.

None of these tools are profitable, and almost all bank zero revenue... for now.

It isn't a cult... they are simply tools, and tools get better as they are used and understood.

Great article.. thanks!

 
At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Paul Chaney said...

Truer words were never spoken. People need to get the social media "mindset" before they delve into the "toolset." The Why and the How, both in tandem.

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Mack Collier said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! As for the whys, I think it's more important to understand WHY the tools work and WHY we value them. Anyone that attended a social media conference in 2007 or 2008 could tell you that Twitter was an amazing channel for covering breaking news, cause we were all twittering about conf sessions as they happened. Then this year, mainstream media saw what happened in Iran, and couldn't believe how Twitter was being utilized. Those of us that had been using Twitter for a while had been predicting that there would be a major breaking news story that broke and was covered on Twitter better than in the MSM.

I think the key as a company is to watch HOW your customers are using social media, and the benefits they are getting. This will help you tailor your efforts. For example, Dell has always closely monitored blog mentions for the company and its products. Then after a year or so of doing that, they launched Ideastorm. My guess is they saw that customers were talking about their products on their blogs, what they liked and disliked, and thought that it would be a good idea to create a community site like Ideastorm. Which lets Dell customers submit ideas for creating/changing Dell products, and the community then picks the most popular ideas. Dell saw how their customers were using SM, and tailored their efforts based on WHY and HOW their customers were using the tools.

Does that help?

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Michelle Tripp said...

Great post! This reminds me of a comment Wayne Kurtzman (@WayneNH) made yesterday about talking with an executive who was looking for an entry-level person to head up a social media program. Yikes!

It's up to the marketing community to keep educating business on the importance and value of social media, and how it's a role that requires strategic experience. The social media new hire should be going through the same tough scrutiny that a marketing director would.

There's a lot at stake. Social media is the new forefront of brand communication.

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Michelle, I totally agree that an entry level person shouldn't be left to spearhead a social media program - speaking as an entry level marketer with my head already spinning! - but social is going to be embedded in everything a company does soon. Entry level people need to be part of the team that's bringing social strategy to fruition and most certainly be given a chance to participate. We want to prove the worth of social just as much as the rest of the marketing dept - we just need to be pointed in a strategic direction!

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Great post mack. I just posted the same thing this morning.

 
At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

I couldn't agree more. It seems to me that there are two criteria one needs to look for: 1) a passion for social media knowledge, and 2) an ability to learn quickly. This field is changing almost daily and the only ones that will be successful are those that can learn and adapt.

 
At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Johnell said...

Agreed - simple way to look at the issue. Those that have a passion for learning are the ones that will ultimately be able to "tame the beast" (if that's even possible!)

 
At 8:33 PM, Anonymous Tech said...

I think Facebook has bitten off more than it can chew.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger brandmarken said...

Well said Mack. The tools will come and go but companies that understand the philosophy and the channel (SocMe) will be the winners in the long run.
@TomMartin

 
At 2:48 PM, Blogger Heather said...

Mack, I totally agree with you! It's just a tool -- people can learn how to use them. But, if the person doesn't understand *why* the tools are important -- the strategy ... the big picture -- that's when companies will run into problems. Along those same lines, if Company A hires a "Twitter expert," will that person understand how social media fits into the larger picture? For example, will they understand its role in providing excellent customer service? Or strengthening media relations or marketing efforts? Probably not. I'm with you -- it's better to have someone understand the "why." Learning how to tweet is the easy part ...

Heather (@prtini)

 
At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Lorne Pike said...

This is one of the more refreshing blog posts I've read in quite a while. "Stop chasing the individual tools, and hire someone that understands HOW and WHY the tools work, and work for your customers." That's great advice. Will be calling motor vehicle registration tomorrow to see if i can get that for my new licence plate!

 
At 2:35 AM, Anonymous Priyanka D said...

Good tips, 'experts' rarely live up to their name, their knowledge is often bookish. when the market situation changes they flounder.

People with some understand would learn to adapt

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger MKG - said...

Nice Post. Enterprise once they start embracing Social Computing, need to realise the value these bring to the brand and how it have its ups and downs. Read more of the same here

Extended Corporate Site(s) Network

 
At 2:22 AM, Anonymous auto loan rates said...

Awesome tip and suggeston to me! I have been using of facebook long time and "WHY" is pretty common tool of it.

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous adventure travel guide said...

Yeah because social media network have ben giving help to us make our community and this Tool is doing incredible work for me.

 

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