There are many ideas, theories, misconceptions, and myths about social media and how it works or how it should be used to generate business. Most companies recognize that social media is an important component to the continued growth of their company. However, few people in the business world really understand how to leverage these new tools to promote and grow their business from their current position. I have spent the past year studying, theorizing, and putting into practice many of these concepts and theories for social media use. One thing I have found is that there are several mistakes that companies make (traditional brick and mortar as well as start-ups) in trying to get on the social media marketing band wagon.
1. The traditional marketing playbook works on line.
Traditional marketing playbooks, while still (at the moment) have a place in the big picture of business, does not work online in the social world. For a long time companies had a tried and true outline for how to have marketing success. It worked for decades, but now, social media has changed that. Shouting to the masses who you are does not work, blanketing your customers and target markets with “likes” or “like us” will not gain a following or boost growth.
2. All social media is the same.
All social media is not the same. Each platform is different and must be evaluated independently in order to assess if that particular platform, based on your goals, will work for your company. There are some basics, but all platforms do not work for all companies. For example, Pinterest is a great example. Pinterest is primarily a visual social media platform. If a beautiful, creative, or interesting photo cannot get your message across, then Pinterest will not work for you. In order to evaluate a platform’s use for your company you must understand not only the medium itself, but the culture surrounding it.
3. Social media is about relationships.
This is true, it is about relationships. But it is not about people seeking you out and establishing a relationship with you. Nor is it entirely about you reaching out and establishing a relationship with them, although, that is key. Social media is about how your customers and target markets see themselves as part of the culture you are perceived to provide. People need to see themselves and have a desire to be associated with that community. For example: an optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s office that asks people to follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook will not garner much of a following or interaction from its customers. However, if that same office creates a fan page around donating eye wear to help people who can’t afford glasses, the engagement with a community that wants to be seen as the type of person that enjoys helping people less fortunate will increase exponentially. It is a perceived sense of community that you provide that engages customers, not asking for likes because “you are really great”.
4. What has always worked will continue to work.
Just because something worked last year, last month, or even last week does not mean it will continue to work tomorrow. You must continue to innovate and try new things. We are in a time when things change continuously and rapidly. It can be suicidal, socially speaking, to continue using what has worked in the past. Companies, like Apple (love or hate them), continue to see success for a single reason: they continue to innovate and try new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. What they absolutely do not do is stay stagnant and continue to use the same tricks. The develop new ones!
No one knows everything about social media. There are leaders in the field and it is because of their innovation that they are considered such. What was true yesterday, may not be true today, and what sees success today, may not work tomorrow. It is important that in this time of an evolution in journalism, marketing, and PR that those in the field remain pliable and continually seeking an understanding of the culture of online media. We can no longer simply tell a story, promote a story, or get people to love our story, we must do all of these, as well as become an anthropologist of sorts, understanding the people in the story and how that story impacts them. We must research and be willing to fail in order to succeed.