Twitter isn’t the answer for everyone

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.

[recent posts]