The 2009 Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook explosion has blown the minds of many CEOs and marketing managers. I’m picking up an attitude that seems to say: “We’ve gotta get into this social media thing and we’ve gotta do it now.” But how?
Most corporate managers know very little [nothing?] about what it takes to succeed with social media. It’s not their job. Many decision makers aren’t even sure what social media is, let alone what it’s supposed to accomplish. They do know, however, that “Everybody is doing it.” (Remember what your parents said when you told them “everybody’s doing it"? Right…. Big whoop.)
Still, being left out is scary and -- if everybody’s doing it: “How hard can it be? I mean, it’s like putting up a website, right? We’ll just get somebody to set it up for us and that will be that.”
To protect the innocent, I’m not going to name names, but I will tell you, specifically, that yesterday I ran across somebody who scared me breathless. Out there in social media land I ran across a social media hack – a really incompetent “consultant” -- who is mining corporate insecurities for all they’re worth. The consultant’s offer is simple: “Don’t worry about a thing. [For a fee], I’ll set-up your blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter presence. You’ll be all set!” This person's work is shoddy, careless, ill-researched, meandering, horribly written, and -- worst of all -- designed to "promote" the client. At least one organization is already paying for this “service.” Ouch.
I figure where there is one social media hack, there are others. So, as a writer, editor, marketer, and program manager with many years experience -- as well as somebody who witnessed, first-hand, the travesties and exploitations of an earlier "latest thing": desktop publishing -- I feel compelled to cite my own short list of warning signals. I hope these will help an over-wrought manager identify who’s for real in social media and who’s … well, a fraud. Here ya go.
If the “consultant” you’re talking to is guilty of any of the following, run to the nearest exit:
1. Says social media will get you more business. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Social media’s primary function has little to do with getting more business or touting the services/products you offer. Your website does that. Social media is about communicating with your current and prospective customers. It’s about listening and sharing. At the risk of being too “new age” here, social media is an expression of the heart and spirit of your business. Blogging or Twittering to sell something – or even to demonstrate how great you are -- not only defeats the purpose of social media, it makes your company look silly. Customers today are very smart. We’ve been exposed to the “big lies,” and we’re not about to accept hyperbole, puffery, and advertising "claims." We do know when we’re being manipulated, so don’t try it.
2. Can’t explain precisely what your social media program should accomplish. Maybe you don’t know what you’re supposed to get out of Twitter and blogging, but your social media expert should. It's not enough to merely give you a "presence." That presence must do you proud! After listening to your vision for your organization, a consultant should be able to describe in detail a plan to augment your vision with social media. No generalities, please.
3. Can’t write a twit (and I mean that in the broadest sense). If you don’t know how to judge good writing yourself, ask an editor or writer you trust to read the consultant’s own blog and give a candid opinion (he does have a blog … doesn’t he?)
Anything as new [and strange] as Twitter is a tough call for management. We'll need to do some research before we trust our corporate reputations to somebody with the power to make us look really stupid. So, if you aren’t a social media expert (and why should you be?), I suggest spending some time with the following folks who really are experts. You may not be able to afford their fees, but, thankfully, they share much of what they know for free .. which, of course, is social media at its best.
Top 5 corporate blogging mistakes and how to avoid them [from David Meerman Scott]
Ten elements every company blog should have [from Mack Collier]
Ten ways bloggers can use Twitter [from Live Crunch]
450 tips, tricks, and how to Twitter list [from LiveCrunch]
Write like a blogger [from Seth Godin]
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