"We Should Do Something In Social Media"

Every so often a client (or potential client) will come to us and say something like,

"We think we should be doing something in social media."

Whether it’s social media monitoring, a podcast series, blogger relations, community building or a fully-integrated campaign, they’ve heard that social media is the thing to do and they want to be seen to do it.

"It would be good for people to see us using social media."

That’s quite possibly true, but by itself it’s not a reason to invest in social media. As I said recently, social media outreach won’t work for everyone.

These companies may have the budget and the will, but likely not the knowledge of how to approach their public relations (and any associated social media tactics). That’s fine – that’s what agencies like ours (and others) are there for – we’re paid to have that knowledge, and we can help companies to plot the right course through social media.

Here are a few questions companies might want to consider before deciding that the time is right:

  • What are their business objectives?
  • What are their communications objectives?
  • Which social media tactics will help them to meet those objectives?
  • Are they ready for an ongoing commitment to social media tools?
  • Are they ready to speak with the voice of people, rather than that of a faceless company?
  • Might social media fit better into a corporate plan rather than an initiative-specific plan?

The answers to any one of these questions could completely re-shape any pre-defined ideas for that company’s social media plans. They could even scupper them completely.

I know this list of questions is far from complete. What would you add to it?

  • I couldn’t agree more with this post. One thing I would add to the list is what are the availability of human resources to dedicate to social media. A lot of people see it as a throwaway, but it can eat up hours and hours of time every day.

  • I love this post. I heard that all the time from clients – “We want a blog” or “we want to get involved with social media”. And that’s great, except sometimes they weren’t willing to spend the time and effort to maintain a blog, or they didn’t understand the need to have put forward a face instead of just the company. Your list of questions is great, and I think the most important is are they ready for an ongoing commitment. Clients don’t understand that it’s an ongoing process. A blog requires constant monitoring and content creation – you can’t just set it and forget it. But if they are willing to spend the time and to interact with the audience, social media can provide a huge payoff.

  • The only thing scarier than that question, Dave, is when a client says ‘So, why aren’t we on facebook?’ or its cousin ‘I think we should be on facebook’. πŸ˜‰

    Great points though. Point #3 in particular is a doorway to so much more … the whole idea of using SM to market a company/brand/product/etc vs reaching out to the SM community as part of a marketing strategy. Subtle differences but as @BethHarte (http://www.theharteofmarketing.com/2009/01/is-social-media-the-same-as-marketing.html) and @shannonpaul (http://veryofficialblog.com/2009/01/04/social-media-outreach-is-not-a-tool/)have shown, there’s much confusion in the wording let alone the doing of those two things!

  • I know all my comments on your blog are going to start to sound the same, Dave, but the biggest thing to remind these clients is that social media are not a strategy, they are tools. After you set your business objectives, decide which tools (social or otherwise) are right for the job.

    As for specific questions to add to your list, how about “How does this fit into our overall communications / outreach strategy?”

    And I agree with your first commenter as well, human resources are so important. Doing SM poorly is far more damaging to your reputation than not doing it at all.

  • I’d ask the client if they’re ready for a change in mentality about public communications – ready to move from unidirectional to interactive – ready to listen and not broadcast – ready to invest billable hours in strategy and monitoring in order to understand the space BEFORE jumping in feet first, without any appreciation of the online culture.

    I’ve recently been approached by a client who thought he could do his own marketing and PR – jump right into online forums without having participated in them first. The result is a damaged reputation.

  • Great post Dave. I’d also ask if they are ready to understand that social media measurement and ROI are different than traditional marketing measurement methods. Sure, specific quantitative analytics can be measured (leads, sales, traffic #s), however the qualitative measurement is just as or more important (where and what is being said about you and your reputation). Social Media measurement is a hot, yet debatable topic…see http://www.davidmeermanscott.com's new doc, Lose Control of your Marketing for a great new look at measurement.

  • @NmymindCarolina

    Your posts are always right on the mark. I scan blog posts, etc. to share with my PR firm to increase our understanding of social media and your posts always make the list. I think companies often times forget to consider their target audience and the habits of that target audience so many times before they dive into social media…to your point of social media won’t work for everyone.

  • You soooo read my post then decided to write one too πŸ˜‰ Looks like great minds think alike I suppose. One thing neither of us addressed directly though, but was mentioned in another comment is Facebook.

    When I worked for marketing in a University setting, everyone thought we should be on Facebook – it’s the hot thing right now. But really, when we got right down to it and asked the students, they weren’t all that interested. You have to know how your audience WANTS to recieve information. It’s no good to be on Facebook trying to get your message out there if it’s falling on deaf ears. Also, reputable marketing and public relations is a difficult thing to produce in that kind of setting – most ‘marketing’ on Facebook is spammage.

    It all really comes down to the points you mentioned in your post and recognizing the importance of all the factors.

  • Two things come to mind for me. First, you’re asking what to consider “before deciding that the time is right.” I think you always have to review the alternatives, including what you’re already doing. Social media is quite the shiny penny, but I’d ask, “For OUR market, is this a better way to engage them? Is this a lack or an opportunity that requires action in the next 12-18 months?”

    Second, I think the question of face and voice of the brand needs to be dealt with well before this initiative starts. The line between individuals and employees gets blurred in social media, and it becomes impossible to have a stranglehold on communications that there was back in my corporate days. Who will blog or post? When people see you “doing something in social media,” will it build brand value, or erode it?

    Thanks for the discussion, Dave.

  • Social media is about relationships and connecting with people. You can’t just throw more money into a campaign than everyone else and expect to increase the reach and expect greater results. If you don’t have a likeable brand no amount of investment will make people “follow” you on twitter.

    I think that might frustrate some companies.

  • This should be an edict for all businesses to read before deciding to have a turn at “that social media thing”…

    Like you say, Dave, of course it’d be beneficial for them to be part of social media and use it to grow their brand and connect with their audience.

    But only if it’s right for them. Otherwise, they may as well just give you the fee and say “Thanks for trying” and walk away.

  • Dear Dave,

    In my PR work I ask clients the same questions as you list above. However my understanding of “social” media and yours differ. To clarify the difference and in response to your recent Twittering about my “10 points: social media reality check”, I’ve written a defence. It is dedicated to you and to the others who commented: @PressReleasePR & @Twitter ilk – http://paulseaman.eu/2009/01/pressreleasepr-and-ilk/

  • Good post! This reaction reminds me the 2001 Internet bubble with this we have to be in attitude that has lead so many people into the wall!

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