Lets talk about a topic of taboo: the problems and limitations of social media.
This is a difficult conversation because people are genuinely trying to do a good thing when they speak on social media. But, as a person with a marketing degree and additional years in search engine optimization, I hear more inaccurate than accurate information. Its frightening to hear what is said and what is believed.
Consider this statement: Social media is the only thing a business needs to do to promote and gain business. That seems rock-solid, but it is untrue on several levels.
For one thing, when a business realizes a certain success and is well-known, a different expectation sets in. This is known among marketers. For the public to continue patronizing a business, it should donate time and money in pay it forward activities for worthwhile causes.
I know of an Idaho company that is highly active on social channels and has a stellar reputation nationally. In the past year, however, there have been more than a dozen local influencers who have expressed displeasure with the company. Their whispers range from allegations that the company is out of touch with its audience to insiders saying the company doesnt care.
Social media promotions wont help a waning reputation.
Another myth is that a good business will be active on the top social channels. That seems at first like another excellent comment. Its misguided, too.
Businesses should not be where they cannot function. If a business is not going to be actively engaged on Twitter, if it doesnt like Twitter, or if there arent enough people to power Twitter, then that company should not be on Twitter. Good marketers will counsel that companys executives to hire a ghost tweeter or to avoid participating until the company is ready.
If time and resources are limited, your social media activity should be, too. For example, consider LinkedIn. If a company uses just this one social channel and shows up regularly, is engaged, tunes into various LinkedIn groups and even sends private messages, this focused activity will do more for its business than part-time participation on three social networks. Activities like this will gain that company a viable reputation.
Be aware, too, that friend counts arent everything. In the world of social marketing, friend counts do not equate to a listening audience. There are people with 4,000 friends on Facebook, but they are hard-pressed to get 100 of them into a room or webinar. Counts, likes, connections and followers like this can be misleading.
Consumers are getting smarter about this, too. Engagement is the name of the game. As you examine a company online, look at how many of its friends or followers are actively engaged and what is being said. If you like the tone of the conversation, its a tone you may want to adopt.
Social media does not need to be cursed. It does need someone willing to examine how your company can fit into the social media mix. A company that steps strategically through the various social networks can enhance its reputation. I would recommend starting with one channel. Avoid getting caught up in social media hype. Stay focused on engagement and build from there.
Karleen Andresen is publisher of the Idaho Womens Journal, a marketer and a speaker. KarleenAndresen@gmail.com