Quality Matters in Social Media

Quality matters - in ice cream and in social media.

A while back, I interviewed for a job as a Director of Social Media for a Boston-based consumer brand.  In my meeting with the CEO, he said (I’m paraphrasing despite the quotation marks):

“I don’t want to wait for quality.  Quality comes second to speed.  Let’s get it done and get it out there.  We can fix it later.”

I didn’t take that job.

That’s because I believe that producing quality content costs time, resources and budget.  This is true in every aspect of business, but for some reason often doesn’t extend to social media.

This doesn’t mean companies need to break the bank, but it does mean that businesses should be willing to invest in their new communication channels.  Winging it should not be a strategy worth considering, yet social media (probably because most of the platforms are free) seems to bring out improvisational tendencies in marketers and communicators.

Speed – not quality – becomes the order of the day.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard corporate executives say variations of the following:

  • “Why does producing this video cost so much?  I can just take our Flip video recorder into the CEO’s office and record him behind his desk talking about the topics we need.  He doesn’t need lighting, scripting or any editing.  He can do it in one take!”
  • “I don’t think we need to update the blog every week.  Why don’t we just link to news articles or another blog posts and jot down a few paragraphs about our take on them.  That should only take a few minutes to produce.”
  • “We can just use Twitter to push out the headlines of our press releases.  How hard is that?”

Here are the responses to those statements and questions:

  • Most people don’t watch an unedited, talking head video of a CEO droning on for 4-5 minutes about his company’s latest product or service.
  • To capture audience, a blog needs to drive ideas by being interesting, presenting cool ideas and producing new and compelling content.  Blogs that only link to other content go by the names of Spam Blogs and Link Farms.
  • Pushing headlines on Twitter is possible – and some companies do it.  But few people follow those companies and using Twitter in that limited capacity is not using it to its greatest potential.

Would a company ever produce a TV commercial in one take?  And without a creative concept or a script?  Would a company ever write one draft of a press release and then quickly fire it off on Business Wire?  Would a company ever design a new logo by winging it during a brainstorm session?

No.  Of course not.  So why do companies lose all sense of perspective when it comes to producing content for social media?

It might be due of the advice and practices of some social media experts.

Here’s blogger C.C. Chapman’s summary of his recent podcast called “Don’t Wait for Perfection”:

“Another trend that I’ve been noticing lately is that many people are waiting for things to be perfect before pushing forward. This might be waiting for the perfectly designed website or fine tuning an article until it is perfect in the author’s opinion. You need to STOP IT!!!”

Try convincing your boss that you don’t have time to strive for perfection on any other project and see what happens.

Then there are popular social media mavens like Chris Brogan and Robert Scoble using the Flip phone video style.  Chris Brogan is known for turning around his video recorder and making quick comments and insights with no production and few edits.  Scoble made a name for himself producing low-cost, long-form video interviews of start-up executives and developers.

However, Chris started his videos after he became an established brand – and already had a passionate, devoted audience.  He’s a personality.  Scoble’s interviews – while some will argue are boring – get attention because of his quirky and erratic interview style (think stream of consciousness meets cyber geek).

But most people – and I’d argue almost all companies – can’t get away with this type of production quality.  Nor should they.

Companies should strive for creating high quality content on all social media channels.  They need to approach social media like they would any marketing or communications endeavor – with a firm understanding of the time, resources and cost of doing a good job.

I’m interested in hearing your perspective on this.


C.C. Chapman’s post “Don’t Wait for Perfection”

Chris Brogan’s blog

Robert Scoble’s blog

Photo by KB35 (via Flickr)

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11 Responses to “Quality Matters in Social Media”

  1. I am in charge of the social media for the Closet Factory located in St. Louis, MO. I COMPLETELY agree! I started out thinking all the information had to be produced fast and often. Then as I got used to my job I realized that my devoted followers were interested in my content and wanted to read about important topics dealing with organization. Once I found my niche the information I was producing became much more researched and informative, and I still produced information often just not as often.

    My boss understands that this takes time and money and if done properly the pay out can be large for the company.

  2. I agree 100%. I’m a writer and editor, and particularly as an editor, a big fan of quality. I took a job as director of communications for a mid-sized nonprofit for a while, and the order of the day was always “do it fast, quality doesn’t matter.” I wonder if that has any connection to the fact that the nonprofit went out of business last December?

  3. Hi Lynne:
    At the end of the day, no one remembers who was fastest (unless, of course, it’s the 100 meter dash), but everyone remembers the best. Quality has a lasting impact.

  4. NinjaNotTurtle July 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    This surprises me. I get not waiting for something to be ‘absolutely’ perfect, but just shoveling ‘content’ out for the sake of getting it out seems like a terrible way to use social networks.

  5. Off the public record:

    1. This is to apologize for the proliferation of Ecosonance surfer Comments – had to repost several times, to straighten out the file name – per ES “conventions”. PLS delete all w/o hesitation.

    2. Also, if you missed that update, thank you for taking blogging seriously, and responsibly. A pleasure. Lots of good research pointers, in addition to an articulate “insider’s view”.

    3. Finally, since my personal compulsion is “making things (& people feel) better” (… and fun of myself) – not that that necessarily matches the outcome – re exchange on yr About page – lots of guys in their …30s would be sending prayers of thanks for “piles and piles” of hair.


  6. Thanks Lynne – for thinking I’m in my thirties…

  7. I have started using social media channels for the company that I work for and it is a learning curve as far as posting content that people actually want to read is concerned. I have found that people don’t want to read any old garbage that an RSS feeder wants to spit out for you but they are tuned into reading articles that are written by my own fair hand! Don’t over post is my tip, as they say less is more and its quality not quantity that counts.

  8. Good advice, Jacquithomas.

  9. Speed it’s certainly needed in some cases, but without any quality to back it, noone will take any notice in a long term


  1. Posts/Blogs of Note – July 2010 (Part 2 – Ongoing) « Ecosonance - July 7, 2010

    […] on Media, PR & the Social Web. Author George F. Snell III presents an argument that quality-matters-in-social-media (as well as in ice-cream). I’m more succinct, Quality matters – period! Rewarding to […]

  2. Posts/Blogs of Note – July 2010 Part 2 « Ecosonance - July 7, 2010

    […] on Media, PR & the Social Web. Author George F. Snell III presents an argument that quality-matters-in-social-media (as well as in ice-cream). I’m more succinct, Quality matters – period! Rewarding to […]

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