Social Media is not a Magic Hammer

Social media is a wonderful tool that brands and organizations can use to tap into a vast pool of individuals receptive to their messaging. Unfortunately, a misconception exists by too many that have yet to establish a presence that as soon as they jump in, they will see an immense return. Just like any carpenter can tell you, one tool cannot build a house; social media is simply one tool on the belt that builds a successful marketing strategy.

The fact is, there exists only a handful of brands that can expect to create a Twitter or Facebook account and see a mass exodus of people follow right away. For the other 99.999% of the companies not named Apple, the “if you build it, they will come” mentality is completely false. Unfortunately, many organizations interpret this to mean they don’t belong in the game of social networking and abandon all their efforts before they have a chance to ramp up.

Any group can find success utilizing social media with the right strategy as long as the metrics of success are correctly defined. Those metrics vary depending on the brand, which is why the very first step prior to proactive engagement should be due diligence. Understanding where one’s online audience exists will define the appropriate venues they should be engaging in. For example, if a brand’s research finds most of its target audience is engaging on niche message boards, it only makes sense that the brand insert itself into those conversations. From there, the brand can build relationships that will then begin to populate their Facebook page or own official message board.

It’s also important to stress that social media is not free. Sure, creating an account on a social network has no monetary cost, but the time it takes to properly utilize that account comes with a cost, as does the most often overlooked area of constructing a presence: advertising. Sure, one can always take the organic-only approach of building up a base of followers, but I’ve yet to find any medium-to-large organization that has the patience it takes to build a following of dedicated brand ambassadors this way, which is why social advertising such as through Facebook ads is so important in informing people that you’re “in the game.” The smaller or more niche a brand is, the more important a role advertising plays in growing one’s following.

I also find a large amount of organizations that have decided to connect with their audience through social media making the same mistake of not fully integrating it into their marketing mix. It’s simple really – if you want people to believe that your social networks are important, you need to show your audience that they are important. This includes placing links to your social profiles on your website, advertisements, email signatures and any other communications with your audience. It also means sending out a blast to your email list with a link to your profiles. Trust me, this is not spamming your list – if we care enough to sign up for your email list, we’re very likely to follow you on Twitter or “like” you on Facebook.

Social media does not and cannot function in a silo, and this must be understood if it’s to be properly utilized. Many customers will want to connect with an organization to simply stay current on news and announcement while many will wish to use it for customer service. Some may even wish to use it for investor relations purposes. The fact is, the users will try to define how a brand’s social presence is utilized and if the brand is not prepared to meet those needs, it’s going to have a very hard time of making meaningful connections that allow them to truly tap into the power of social media.

Tim Baker is the Vice President, Digital Strategies for FD. He has over a decade of experience in building digital marketing and branding strategies for clients across the world. You can find him on Twitter at @IamTimBaker.

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