There are tons of self-appointed “social media experts” out in cyberspace. There’s also a growing backlash against same, usually focusing around ideas such as:
- Many of these so-called “experts” greatly overstate their expertise.
- A lot of what passes for social media “success” just amounts to these “experts” getting attention from each other.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to argue with all that. But I think there’s also a more fundamental reason why specialized social media “experts” should not be taken very seriously:
Social media done in a silo is social media done wrong.
Advertising is only a shallow part of marketing. Classic PR is only a shallow part of marketing. And for the same reasons, the same is true of isolated social media initiatives. Marketing efforts need to span multiple channels, and use them to tell an integrated story.
To see why, please consider two of my major themes in this blog. First, successful marketing requires telling a multi-layered story. In principle you can do that entirely through social media, specifically a blog. But if you try, you have to be very careful to sound — Buzzword alert! — authentic. And for most sets of marketing messages, it’s very hard to simultaneously stay authentic, drive traffic through techniques that social media “experts” favor, and lay out the whole story.
If your whole business is selling Make Money Online! advice to fellow cyberschmoozers, please feel free to disregard the prior paragraph. In that realm, thinly-veiled inauthenticity is the message.
Second, marketing needs to reach many different kinds of people. It is rare that one channel is a good way to reach them all. But your communications with different groups, through different channels, of course have to be managed for consistency.
Anyhow, I’m not a “social media expert.” I’m just a guy who:
- By the standards of the enterprise IT sector, is a successful blogger.
- Compared to other people in the enterprise IT industry, has substantial reach on Twitter.
- Makes much of his living consulting about marketing (to the aforementioned IT sector).
- Reads a lot, including about social media.
- Writes a little bit about social media as well.
With that as background, here are some of my thoughts on how enterprise IT companies and other businesses should pursue social media.
- Publish a blog (or multiple blogs). The biggest single reason is that blogs are the least-constrained of all the communication media. You can say whatever you want in a blog, however you want to say it. All other media have unfortunate limitations.
- Your blog should have two main purposes — to express yourself and (optionally) to drive search engine traffic.
- Getting regular readers should not be one of the purposes of your blog. The techniques for doing that clash with too much else that you want to achieve.
- In particular, disregard the usual “rules” about posting frequency. Those are irrelevant to the main purposes of corporate blogging. What’s more, your best people don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with that kind of posting frequency anyway.
- Have multiple individuals blogging. Different people in your company have the talent, knowledge, and status to be successful with different styles of blog post. If one person coordinates your blog, however, that’s fine.
- Encourage your senior customer/public-facing personnel to use their choice of personal-page sites such as LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace (blech), et al. Think of those sites as steroid-laden business cards. Those sites’ other benefits are oversold, but they truly work for spelling out who you are. Other social media use (if any) should be even more optional, and hence more tailored to your people’s individual personalities.
- Establish a corporate presence on Twitter. It’s a great way to maintain personal relationships with influencers — and to fix them, if for example the influencer is an unhappy customer badmouthing you. (For example, Dell did just that very successfully with me.) And if you’re too small for that to make sense, there’s a good chance you’d benefit just from the interaction with fellow small business folks.
- Send somebody to participate in whichever online forums, blog comment threads, etc. are most important to your target audiences.
As for gimmicks and glitz — well, do they have a large role in how you market through other channels too? If so, then it might make sense to get cute in social media as well. Otherwise, play it straight.