Your Social Media Presence Needs Substance, Not Just Style

“Twitter” isn’t a communications strategy. It isn’t even a social media strategy. As a company, having a Twitter account doesn’t even set you apart from the pack any more.

As social media’s golden-child-of-the-moment heads into the trough of disillusionment, we’re going to see more and more people vocalizing the same thing; Jennifer Leggio said it succinctly today: “I don’t care if your company is on Twitter.”

I’ve argued this for a while, but I’ll argue it again – Twitter (or Facebook, or FriendFeed, or blogging) isn’t a silver bullet for your company.

Plan properly

ToolkitInstead of wondering how best to use Twitter, try wondering:

  • “What are we trying to do?”
  • “Who are we trying to reach?”
  • “How do we best reach those people to achieve those things?”

Sometimes, the answer to those questions won’t include Twitter. Remember – Twitter is just one tool in your social media toolkit, and social media is just one set of tools in your communications toolkit. There are lots of other options.

Have a purpose

Just having a Twitter presence isn’t enough to make you interesting, either. Thousands of companies do nowadays. It doesn’t set you apart. You need substance to your presence, rather than just style.

Look at the companies we often look to as models of how to approach Twitter successfully – each of them uses the tool to accentuate their USP or to add something new to their communications (over-simplifying here to make a point):

  • Zappos uses it to shine a spotlight on their great customer service
  • Molson and Ford solve the problem of being large, potentially faceless brands by putting people and personalities out there
  • Dell uses Twitter to address a perception of poor customer service, while also putting a face on the company (along with sales generation)

These brands aren’t just there because they should be (in fact, they were on Twitter before it was the golden child) – each of them uses it for a purpose.

Stop and think

So, before starting a Twitter initiative, ask yourself:

Are we doing this for the right reason? Is it the right tool for the job?

Your thoughts?

38 Responses toYour Social Media Presence Needs Substance, Not Just Style

  • Amen, Dave. The problem is that there are so many sycophantic “social media consultants” and “brand loyalists” who actually DO consider a brand’s arrival on Twitter news. You see it all the time, even from otherwise well-respected people.

    Advocates of integrating social tools into compreshensive strategies have to stop swooning every time a big player notices / remarks upon / joins Twitter or someother social tool.

    If we demand better, good companies will get the message. Right now, the very arrival on the scene DOES garner them praise without the risk of actually engaging.

  • Thoughtful post David,
    The applications of the social media tools are nearly limitless. Brand identity is certainly a significant and obvious benefit. For business to business the tools allow to create and control editorial content like never before, circumventing traditional outlets to not only get your message out unfiltered, but drive thought within the industry being served. Adds significant value to a B2B sales rep’s arsenal.

  • Dave I completely agree with the title of your post! Some people think giving away free things on Twitter is the key to their success, when really it just attracts fake followers and not necessarily people who would be interested in their products.

    I like the questions you point out for planning properly. I would only add: “How do we want to reach out to our customers?”

    Great post!

  • Right on, Dave. It’s the meat that people are forgetting, as they’re blinded by the tools and having a placeholder on these platforms. There’s more to SM than being a placeholder – and that’s much more than what any companies needs or wants.

    They each have objectives and goals in mind, and I’d bet that having just a ‘presence’ on social media, isn’t it.

    Good reminders here.

  • I think people are finally starting to understand, but it takes time. People (ie. executives) oft times think that just having and account and using these services are the key, but forget that all marketing requires a target market, a message for that market and a strategy for addressing that market. The tools are simply that…tools. As far as the toolbox goes, I’d check out the beta of Gist too. I’ve been using it for about a week now and am finding new value in it each day.

  • Great post Dave and relevant and companies and people try to figure out how to use these resources. I am a believer in the Groundswell model — POST. It all starts with people and where the individuals you are trying to reach are located. Why start a Twitter account if your audience isn’t there? It takes some research time up front and you have to continuously monitor, but the upfront work can save time later. At the exchange we saw an audience of traders early on using Twitter and that has really helped fuel our efforts. This also supports your point that social media is not a silver bullet. It must integrate with your brand and other activities you are trying to communicate.

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