Helping Social Media Mature in 2010

Client: We need some big social media ideas.

Social Media holding device or a rusty bucket?

Social Media Consultant: But you don’t have a social media strategy.  In fact, you don’t have any social media assets.  No Facebook page.  No Twitter account.  No blog.  No YouTube presence.  You aren’t even set-up to deliver on any big social media ideas.

Client: I know, but we need some big social media ideas to show the executive team.


That conversation happens much more often than it should.  There are too many professionals in communications and marketing who are still putting social media into a rusty bucket.  They still believe that social media is a collection of tactics that can be bolted on to the end of a PowerPoint presentation.

Why is this?

A few reasons:

  • They still aren’t convinced that their customers are using social media – in any cohesive way. They hear the numbers – more than 300 million users on Facebook, 3 out of 4 people belonging to a social network, that 75% of journalists read blogs for story ideas – yet fail to connect the dots back to their own markets.  They believe that the social media revolution is happening, but just not in their specific space.
  • They are afraid. They have been doing marketing or PR for so long the same way – with success no less – that change is too scary.  Suddenly, the sky isn’t blue and rather than embrace these crazy new rules and channels – they pretend that everything has remained the same.  That the sky – if not completely blue – will soon return to its azure glory.  So why try doing it differently (other than to show the boss a few slides)?
  • They remain uneducated about the process.  Lots of brands are big and encompass many sub-brands and different regions (including international).  Trying to implement a “new” social media strategy to integrate with marketing, communications and customer service seems daunting – almost impossible.  When they hear about the success of other enterprises in social media, they are incredulous that those brands could have gotten everyone on board.  And they don’t believe it can be done at their company.

There are other reasons as well, but these seem to be the three big ones.  So how can we help enterprises get beyond this flawed thinking?

There are a few ways:

  • Keep showcasing successes. Social media works when it is integrated into the communications and marketing mix.  Standalone social media tactics can work, but for social media to flourish it needs to play with other external efforts.  It’s not enough to tell clients that their are 300 million people using Facebook.  Show them how they are using Facebook.  Provide insight to the numbers.  When three-quarters of the U.S. has joined a social network that means that behavior has changed.  Tell your clients how they can maximize the change to better market, communicate and engage with customers and other constituent groups.
  • Hold their hands. Change is scary for a lot of people.  Especially big change.  So instead of presenting all-encompassing strategic changes, why not begin incrementally?  How about proposing a Twitter handle – with a strategy, training and a content plan included?  Teach your clients how to do it themselves.  Be a guide.  Allowing them to experience small victories with lower risks are the best way to convince them on the power of the bigger projects and ideas.
  • Educate. Talk to your clients.  Send them email case studies.  Point out new studies and surveys.  Let them talk with other clients that might be ahead of the curve.  Get in a room with the communications or marketing teams to give them 101 sessions on everything from YouTube to how to use social bookmarking sites.

2010 is poised to be the year that everyone finally realizes that social media is not a fad – is not a temporary condition.  The web isn’t going anywhere – it will continue to be the fastest and easiest way for people to discover information, buy goods and services and connect with their social circles – from friends and co-workers to the brands they buy.

And that’s why social media doesn’t belong in a rusty bucket or as an addendum on a slide deck.

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