Forget iPhone4… I WANT social media!

Social MediaAt some point in your career you have or you will come across the inevitable ask from a corporate client: “We want social media.”

It sounds a bit like the iPhone4 vs. HTC phone spoof only you substitute, “I want social media” for “I want iPhone4.”

Generally the request comes from someone who was told that his or her company must play in the social media space. They know little about social media except what they read in the Life or Technology section of the newspaper or maybe it was a tidbit they pick up from a breakfast seminar.

My message to you: Social Media is not for everyone. But everyone can “do” social media.

Many brands fail to recognize that a social media vehicle like Twitter is a conversation, not an advertising platform (although many have tried, most have failed). If you understand this key point, the rest of this blog is likely not for you. You get “it”. However, I still invite everyone to read on.

Imagine you are in an investment group. You meet with your buddies once a week to talk about stocks. This goes on for a few months. Then all of a sudden one buddy shows up and starts talking about porn instead of the Dow Jones. You let it slide the first time, but you become suspicious. Next week he is talking about porn again. By week three it is like ‘see ya’… time to find a new investment club for your buddy as he is excommunicated from the group.

Twitter works in the same way.

People have conversations with other people. Instead of talking politics or sports with your core group of friends, the world is now your oyster and you have millions of people with similar interests with whom you can engage.

Awesome.

You can even continue these conversations offline and make new ‘real life’ friends. I’ve done it. My life is better for it. Hopefully I have provided the same in return.

But what happens when you cross your circle of online trust?

Same as the investment banker turned porn hound was punted, you are expelled from the group and your online name becomes mud.

Facebook is similar to Twitter, only you try harder to project your perfect life out to the world. You un-tag crappy photos. You only post good photos. And you constantly post happy status updates quoting the world’s greatest philosophers. For the most part, life is good.

But along came the brands. They want to be part of your circle of friends. It was all good as long as they provided value. Value can be found in different ways, but for the most part, brands must find a way to make your precious free time entertaining or exciting.

Social media is not rocket science. It is simply about communicating. Cavemen used drawings. Indigenous societies used smoke signals. Your grandparents may have sent a telegram while your parents had a rotary phone. The message is the same, the medium has evolved.

So as long as a brand is providing value it is OK. But imagine that brand only looked out for its interests and only communicated in its favour? Similar to the wasted kid at a high school party, you likely moved into another room where the atmosphere was less threatening.

Don’t get me wrong – brands are welcome in the social media sphere, but only if they play by the rules.

I looked the other day and apparently I “Like” 97 different things on Facebook. Who knew!

Most of the 97 things I “Like” are good to me. But once in a while, one fails to live up to the unwritten contract of providing value in exchange for my time. In one quick click they receive the kiss of death – an unlike, or god forbid, an un-friend.

The next time someone comes up to you and says they, “want social media” I would ask them a few questions:

Firstly, find out what their goals are and what will measure success.

Secondly, understand how they plan to provide value in return for ‘borrowing’ someone’s time.

Finally, make sure there is a mutual fit for both parties.

These questions are just a starting point.

But if you don’t pass this test, you may be offering up the GBs and the Wifis to your friends and to your community. If you choose to do so, do so at your own risk.

Lessons Learned:

  • Communicating online through social media vehicles is no different than communicating in person. The skill remains constant, the medium is what changes.
  • Social media is not the right outlet for every brand; make sure you understand your goals before requesting social media as a promotion vehicle.
  • Contribute to the community – I.C.E. (Interact, Communicate, Engage) – and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
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About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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9 Responses to Forget iPhone4… I WANT social media!

  1. jobs Cardiff says:

    I am really grateful to have the information from this blog.I liked the blog as it has been written,the information i got from here. This is a good information i got from here.I really liked it and this information is worth remembering.

  2. Joel Reilly says:

    Nice post Jamie!
    Its really important as we move forward as a social media community and as business professionals for us to show our bosses, clients and prospective clients that this is not just a flash in the pan but more a whole new way to communicate. Excited to see what the future holds.

    Keep em coming!

    J

  3. Alphonso says:

    I would add another question to your test: what is social media to you? Too many people do it just to say they are doing it. Too many companies do it without a strategy. Too many focus on the medium and too little on the outcome, which is, as you put it, the conversations you can now carry with your customers, your partners, your employees.

    When it comes to social media there’s no easy pill, it’s a process and it’s best left to the professionals like Dr. Stein here 🙂

    • jaimestein says:

      A great point and a fourth question to add to the ‘test’. If your motivations for engaging in social media are good, that will come out to the crowd. But if you have less than the best intentions, the crowd will sniff you out in an instant.

      Thanks for the comments. (and no, I don’t plan to get a PhD in Social Media)!!!

  4. Jan Reischek says:

    Great post, Jaime!
    It’s so true – everyone wants social media, but few know what to do with it. I love the analogies – it’s hard to make Twitter easy to understand for someone who is new to the industry but you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    Social media isn’t going anywhere – it’s time to embrace the inevitable!
    Cheers!
    JR

  5. karimkanji says:

    Fantastic post Jaime. You communicated well on what social media is and how individuals and brands should approach it.

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