Twitter isn’t the answer for everyone

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PuzzleIn this age of social media, there are a few situations that every PR pro prays will never happen to them.  One of the most dreaded inquiries that one can get from a client is:

“I was at a networking event the other night and I met a social media consultant. She said that we should really be on Twitter and that she would give us a session on using it for $2,000. Why haven’t you built us a Twitter page yet?” (Ok, so that’s probably second to “I want a viral video… you know, like the inmates performing Thriller.”)

So, what does one do in this situation? Let’s take a step back so I can properly explain the situation. This particular client provides Web-based, customer communication solutions. This means that their target is roughly 1,000 CTOs in the US. They are the epitome of a B2B.

This company’s VP of Sales has read all the BusinessWeek articles about the importance of including social media in your marketing plan and now they’ve met Little Ms. Social Media Expert. Let’s call her Ms. SM. The VP is convinced that Twitter is the missing link in their marketing plan and that using it will absolutely boost their sales. I mean, hey, a social media expert told him so (using this term is another issue in and of itself. And the relative cost ($2K) for guaranteed sales sounds like an easy solution.

There are many problems with this logic: what that VP of Sales doesn’t realize, (but if you’ve ever read PRBC, then I hope that you do) is that:

(a) Not only is Twitter not for everyone, it’s also never a quick-fix

(b) no matter how much they know about social media, it’s irresponsible to believe that a social media consultant can fix all your marketing problems in one hour for a one-time fee of $2000 and

(c) once you start a twitter account (or any other social media account for that matter) it must be an ongoing, well thought-out process (unless you are the Obama campaign of course). Your responsibility is to make sure your client sees that they can’t simply jump into the game because they met Ms. SM at an event.

Here’s how you should deal with this client:

Explain to them all the social media options. Far too often consultants use the term “Social Media” as a general term for Social Networking sites (i.e. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).  Social Media existed even before Facebook, although it wasn’t called that. As hard as it is to believe, we were all meeting up in chat rooms and on message boards before Mark Zuckerberg came along. Social Media can also mean adding a blog onto your web site or holding industry relevant discussions on a third party Web site.

Teach the client how to use all social media tools. It’s important that the client understand each option at their disposal. It won’t hurt to have them create personal accounts and play with the tools. They might not see the value in some (or even any) of them but it’s important for your client to understand the dynamics of each social media tool.  The last thing you want is to have the client leave the decision totally up to you. The client should never feel that you took advantage of their ignorance. That will always end badly.

Recommend the viable options to the client. Once you’ve educated your client on all of their options, then it’s time to choose. In the example I gave above, we created a blog on the client’s Web site which included thought leadership commentary on his particular industry. You could also helped them launch a LinkedIn page and teach them how to join relevant groups (some might consider it elementary, but it’s necessary in this case).

Implement these solutions with your client. Make sure the client is constantly being updated on the execution. Even if you have to explain it at every step, they should always understand what you are doing and WHY you’re doing it.

Is there anything else that we as PR pros should be doing when implementing a social media plan for an inexperienced client?  The comments are open as always.

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  • jeffespo

    Great post Jess. I was talking to a friend working for a startup the other day (note they don't have a name yet) and his whole line of questioning was, “Jeff you know social media, how can I get us started and get our name out there to everyone.” Supposedly he'd sold the idea to the high ups that this was the it thing that could be done on the cheap.

    Some folks just miss the point and are easily amused by the new shiny toy that gets shown to them from “experts.” Its an unfortunate reality that we'll have to keep fighting.

  • keithtrivitt

    Jess – Great stuff in here, and thanks for providing some practical and actionable tips and advice of how to help clients and companies see the true value in even the simplest forms of social media.

    And you're exactly right. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,etc. were not the beginning of social media. As Jeremiah Owyang is fond of saying, e-mail was the original social media, and it still is one of the best forms we have of it.

    As you know, I've talked a lot about this very subject before, that Twitter may not be the best option for every company. There are certainly some industries that are still a year, maybe more, off from being ready to adopt certain parts of social media, but I think the points you have outlined above would be excellent for any company to keep in mind in terms of enhancing its brand, even with B2B companies.

    @KeithTrivitt

  • http://twitter.com/TomOKeefe1 Tom O'Keefe

    Great post here, Jess.

    It's important to be able to do the proper research to find if social media is right for any company. I first joined Twitter as an intern to see if it would be a viable supplement (notice I don't say solution) to clients's PR efforts. We found that with some of our B2B's, it wouldn't be right for them to dive headfirst into it, while others could reach their audience to a certain degree.

    I noticed something else, too. Sometimes the B2B companies with a very limited client-base want to “do” social media. Now. And see results, now, while other companies that could use social media to effectively boost their brand, are slow to take recommendations from PR's and implement social media as part of their PR efforts. Ah, the life of a PR pro…

    Anyway, again, great points, Jess!
    Thanks,

    Tom
    @TomOKeefe1

  • http://sashahalima.com/blog/ Sasha H. Muradali

    I agree. Twitter isn't for everything and neither is Facebook.

    I think companies and people, need to figure out why they are joining an outlet before they do.

    But the biggest problem I see out there is actually, what I like to call “The Attack of the Gurus.” People who aren't social media experts (because IMO no one is, it's to new for there to be any) who sell companies exactly what you put out there in your example.

    It's a vicious cycle that goes dead end to dead end.

    You bring up an excellent point, I wish more people would consider what's good for them and what isn't.

  • http://twitter.com/mclairfemrite mclairfemrite

    Thank you, Jess! This is EXACTLY my SM philosophy. Not every SM application is going to be right for everyone. You need to find out what the client is comfortable with and what works best for them. What's the value of SM if they're not going to use it?
    Example: My company (I work with in-house PR dept. in addition to my real job in finance dept.) was discussing what, if any, SM we could use. We decided that, for our sector and our peers, it's best to just monitor for any comments and react as necessary.

  • hdueitt

    Thanks Jess. We deal with this on a daily basis. Educating the client is key in their understanding of Social Media and what it can do to their current marketing plan. Sure, everyone wants a viral video or to have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, but realistically less than 10% of campaigns end up this way.

  • http://sashahalima.com/blog/ Sasha H. Muradali

    I agree. Twitter isn't for everything and neither is Facebook.

    I think companies and people, need to figure out why they are joining an outlet before they do.

    But the biggest problem I see out there is actually, what I like to call “The Attack of the Gurus.” People who aren't social media experts (because IMO no one is, it's to new for there to be any) who sell companies exactly what you put out there in your example.

    It's a vicious cycle that goes dead end to dead end.

    You bring up an excellent point, I wish more people would consider what's good for them and what isn't.

  • http://twitter.com/mclairfemrite mclairfemrite

    Thank you, Jess! This is EXACTLY my SM philosophy. Not every SM application is going to be right for everyone. You need to find out what the client is comfortable with and what works best for them. What's the value of SM if they're not going to use it?
    Example: My company (I work with in-house PR dept. in addition to my real job in finance dept.) was discussing what, if any, SM we could use. We decided that, for our sector and our peers, it's best to just monitor for any comments and react as necessary.

  • hdueitt

    Thanks Jess. We deal with this on a daily basis. Educating the client is key in their understanding of Social Media and what it can do to their current marketing plan. Sure, everyone wants a viral video or to have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, but realistically less than 10% of campaigns end up this way.