Integrated Social Media > Stand-Alone Social Media

Jennifer Leggio wrote a post for ZDNet.com yesterday entitled “Social media consultants: snake oil or value add?” Her conclusion:

“Overall, while there are a lot of consultants selling snake oil, the pushiness of the salesman should not scare companies off of social media completely. It can be a tremendous — and free — resource for branding and customer engagement if used in the right way. It does not need to overtake your business objectives and it does not need to cost a fortune. It does, however, need to be strategic and it needs to be done right.”

I have two comments on this conclusion. On one I agree with Jennifer; on the other I disagree:

  1. Social media is not free
  2. Social media needs to be strategic

1. Social media is not free

I’m not going to hang around on this one for long, especially as this isn’t the focus of the article. However, it is an important point.

Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress etc. may be free (not all are). However, the time you invest in using those tools is not and that time investment can be significant. Working in a public relations agency where we bill by the hour, this is clearer to me now than ever before.

2. Social media needs to be strategic

Banging head against a wall As Jennifer states:

“Many of these consultants have been successful building their own personal brand, however, prowess for personal brand building does not prove an understanding of enterprise business needs.”

I completely agree. There are way too many people out there right now who have built considerable profile for themselves and think this translates to companies. Granted, some of them do have the knowledge to make the leap. Unfortunately for most, though, personal branding is not the same as corporate communications or marketing. I keep seeing proof that show they simply don’t know that.

In fact, I’ll go one step further.

If anyone who approaches you and offers to implement social media tools in your organization without integrating them with your marketing and corporate communications strategies, chase them away with a pitchfork.

“Companies need to stop believing the hype that social media is an “everything drug.” It’s not.”

Social media shouldn’t be a strategy on its own. While you may need guidelines and policies to effectively use these tools, from a communications perspective social media is a new set of tools that we should add to our toolkits.

If your communications strategy results in you primarily using social media tools then fine. However, just as you wouldn’t trust a builder who just showed up with a hammer instead of his toolkit, don’t trust “social media consultants” who push stand-alone tactics independent of strategies. Believe it or not, social media outreach won’t work for every company (more on that in an upcoming post).

In the long term, the successful companies consulting on social media will be those that integrate it strategically with communications and marketing.

Stand-alone just doesn’t cut it.

  • Dave, great blog post. I suppose I should’ve clarified. When I said free, I meant it doesn’t necessarily have to merit a ridiculous additional investment. There might be social media savvy people within the organization who can take on the task, or the existing PR infrastructure might be able to handle it.

  • I couldnt agree with you more! Social Media should be considered as a whole, as part of the mix between traditional marketing and SEO. Just being in facebook doesnt mean really cut it. besides … all new things usually get old.

  • Dave,
    thanks for your investment in time writing this one. I have been approached in my business and past ones many times by “social media” experts who claim lots of things. in earlier cases, around 2004, 2005 social media WAS a financial investment for me because I was paying others to do the work who were claiming they were experts. I put them out of my mind and just assumed they knew what they were doing and thought that my energy was needed elsewhere. This was before Rupert Murdoch was interested in Myspace (or before I knew he was). I was dolling out big bucks on behalf of large record companies (I was in music at the time) and just hoping that they could deliver what they said they would. But as an artist I was able to look into what they were doing and saw that they had an extremely uncreative way of reaching people and were making assumptions that what worked for them in the past would work for them now. It wasn’t until I rolled up my sleeves and delved in did I start to understand how to use social media for myself and my own business and realized that unless someone was as invested and passionate as i was around what I was doing then they would not be able to be effective at engaging others. What I did learn was 1. there are no experts in social media 2. what worked last week wont work this week as consciousness evolves daily and 3. there is nothing impersonal about this method that can reach and engage so many people while inspiring them for social change. The most important lesson I learned above all that all social media efforts need to involve an acute sense of storytelling. when you sit by a campfire and a master storyteller tells you a story, he does not wing it. he knows the beginning middle and end and he takes you on a long journey, engaging you along the way and the best part of the story is that you do not know where it will end up but rest assured, if it is a good story, you will walk away changed and with a very strong message.

    Billie Mintz
    http://www.arcinstitute.net

  • Great post – though over a year old. Social media tools come and go, but the principles will always be the same. We definitely cannot and should not create a social media strategy without first looking at the existing marketing & corporate communications strategy. There are times, however, that you will find (as a consultant) that your client doesn’t even have an existing marketing & corporate communications strategy. What do you do then? If the client simply hired someone who “knew only social media” and expected him/her to create simply a social media strategy, they are headed for trouble. As the Chinese General Sun Tzu once said, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Clients must be careful when selecting social media consultants. They should consider hiring someone who knows the fundamentals of marketing, PR, and communications; one who knows how to combine these principles while leveraging the power of social media, strategically. Just because a person was successful at a previous social media marketing campaign (and as you mentioned, personal branding is a great example of this) does not guarantee that he/she will be successful when tackling a new project–whether it be on the small business, corporate, non-profit, or government side.