Social Media: Keepin’ it Real

Every once in awhile it’s good to be reminded that our busy lives are influenced by…what’s the word I’m looking for…buzz, spin, hype, BS? It’s no different for those of us who work in media and marketing. Even I, who considers himself ‘a voice of reason’, get intrigued by the latest new and shiny theory, service, or technology that comes down the pike…and believe me there is a heap of ‘new’ that takes up every lane of that pike on a daily basis.

At a recent Social Media Breakfast there was great discussion highlighting many theories on managing and marketing within social media, both business to business and business to consumer. The room was filled with comments and thoughts about what this new medium is all about, how companies felt about it, the tools that we can use to participate in and monitor it, and more.

Don’t get me wrong, we need do explore “what could be”. We need to talk in big picture terms, we must look forward. We also need to get giddy about new toys that, from a perch at a coffee shop with free wifi, allow us to reach our audience. (We all have audiences whether they be customers, followers, viewers, etc.)

What this conversation sparked in me was a need to remind myself, and perhaps others that work in marketing and PR, that our job is not necessarily to set the trends, make things popular, make the service a priority…that’s what our audience does. Our job is to follow their lead, not the other way around. If we are truly marketing to, building relationships with, or communicating in general with our audience we must do it on their terms.

With that said, marketers, I thought I’d list some of what I think are  realities. Here goes…

Social Media is two different things.

Social=relations, interactions, and communication between people.
Media=the channel to carry a message…nothing more. (By the way, that’s true of all media. It’s a pipe.)

People don’t like advertising.

Hard to believe I know, but people are not attracted to media because it offers businesses the opportunity to sell something to them. People know that being exposed to an ad is the price of admission for free media. Yes, they expect advertising, they tolerate it, but they would rather live without it and will avoid it. Witness the rise of Tivo and DVR.

Social Media is not “Advertising” Media.

The rise of Facebook, Youtube, even text messaging was precipitated by people wanting to communicate with other people. Not because they needed one more place to be sold something. If we as marketers treat this medium as just another way to shill, we’re going to screw it up and drive the audience farther away. Don’t try to advertise here…be social!

You audience has precious little spare time.

How dare we think that all our audience has to do is sit around and
type, search, click, and download only to be “sold to”. Answer the
question, “What’s in it for me.”

Only Facebook and text messaging matter…right now.

It’s that “They set the trend and decide what’s popular.” thing. Yep, Twitter is growing, YouTube is huge, blogging is great, but right now, the crowd is on Facebook to socialize electronically and are more than satisfied with text messaging as a way to stay in touch. These two are the lake…hunt where the ducks are!

Portable is vital!

Notice I didn’t say mobile. That would imply, it needs to be a
phone. I don’t think it does, though if you’re looking to deliver a
message to somebody, it makes a whole lot of sense to deliver it to them via something
that already have. But, if they can wear it, carry it easily, put it in their pocket…take it with them…you’ll get
their interest.

They can talk back!

If you can’t spend time listening and responding, stay the hell away from social media. This medium is about engaging in a conversation and a relationship. Make sure you’re ready to commit to that. No one likes to be invited to a party at your house to be ignored.

Some companies/brands/people don’t want to participate.

Conversation can lead to a greater depth of knowledge about all the participants. Some companies love the thought of learning more about their customers but have absolutely no interest in letting them know more about them. In fact, some people see absolutely no reason to share their “status” or share a video clip. That’s just fine. Please do your best to help them learn about this medium. But remember, the ones that “get it” can always better at it.

There are no rules.

Perhaps the reason many mediums are struggling is because someone at some point decided that “This is how you do it!” They made the rules, decided the proper etiquette, wrote the book and became the expert. Playing it safe and playing by the rules became the strategy of choice. I love the guys that say, this is what you can and can’t do with Twitter or should or shouldn’t post on Facebook. It’s a brand new medium, let’s wait awhile before we try to make it predictable. Find what works but also spend time finding out “what else” works.

So there are some realities that I see. There are plenty more. Aren’t there? What can you offer that will help all of us “keep it real?”