What Social Media Is.
1. Social media is a net. What do I mean, do you ask? Well, let’s talk fishing. Normal communication is casting out one rod, one line, one hook. You could fish all day, and not catch a thing. Or, you could catch a small fish, and have to throw it back. Or, if you’re really lucky, you land a big sized fish, but no matter, when you cast out one line, you can only catch one fish. Social media is a net, you throw it out, it has a much wider reach, and your potential number of fish you can catch becomes much larger, and sometimes you can throw out multiple nets at one time, and bingo, your potential catch is even higher.
2. Social media is a lobby in the building, it’s not the building. It’s sometimes misunderstood as the building itself, but social media is the entryway into real relationships that happen, both personal and business. It shouldn’t start and end in the lobby, it should be an invitation into the building, into much more productive relationships. Remember, when “business to business”, or “business to consumer” transactions are made more engaging and interactive, more personal, the better the chance for loyalty and the opportunity to create raving fans. I try and make as many of my online friendships off-line as much as possible. For me, that is getting into the building, getting out of the lobby. So, remember, get out of the lobby.
3. Social media is the current most-used method of communication. Whether you like it or not, it is the way most folks communicate on a daily basis. It is also here to stay. I don’t know how many folks I know that have closed up shop on their Facebook accounts, only to reopen it soon after, realizing the amazing power it has to connect people and businesses on a daily basis. It is here to stay, learn how to use it and harness it’s power. If you’re not happy about Facebook’s privacy standards, learn up on how to clamp them down. If you’re not happy with Google’s data-mining, learn how to minimize it. Either way, you’re going to need to communicate via social media, so figure out how to do it best, and most safely.
4. Social media is a godsend for businesses. Before social media, businesses had to pay large amounts of money for print media, television commercials, or radio ads. Those media companies held all the power for getting the word out about their business to consumers. But now, with social media, the power is being handed back into the hands of business owners. Business owners should learn how to use social media, or high social media professionals, sometimes called “community managers” to handle it for them, either way, they must have vibrant social media programs. Also it is more cost effective than ever to get the word out about your business using social media.
5. Social media is a pit of quicksand. Because social media is so relatively new, we’re seeing lots of people make mistakes that get national attention, and the backlash and effects from those mistakes. When I first got involved in social media six years ago, when Facebook was in it’s infancy (I remember applying for an account when it was still college students only), and was one of the first groups to sign up for Twitter. Because when I first got involved in social media, the whole realm was still so new, and adoption was relatively low, I was able to make many of my mistakes early, when no one would notice. I was able to figure out what to say and what not to say when few people were listening.
That is not to say that I don’t make mistakes now, because occasionally it does happen, and I learn more about what to do and what not to do everyday, just like everyone else. I’ve also learned crisis management, and how to fix said mistakes. Social media is like a pit of quicksand, ever ready to pull you under with one errant tweet. And it literally only takes one tweet. Think about Gilbert Gottfried. Think about KitchenAid most recently. These are tweets that cost folks their jobs. It can cost you your reputation, as well. Be extra careful what you post to social media. Think about it twice. If you have any doubts, run it by someone first.
What Social Media Isn’t.
1. It isn’t guaranteed success. It is simply a medium, it isn’t the final product. Think about social media as the canvas you paint on. It’s not the finished product, but it helps provide the basis for it to happen. It’s up to you to paint the picture, and it’s up to you to utilize social media correctly to create a successful social media strategy.
2. It isn’t a substitute for real relationships. It is a way to help facilitate greater engagement, to encourage it, and to catch people up with you or your business, but it’s no real substitute for real and personal relationships with your friends, family or customers. It should always be an entry point into that, as noted in #2 above.
3. It isn’t one thing. Social media is a very large spectrum of ways to communicate, from blogs to Facebook, from Twitter to Foursquare, from Pinterest to LinkedIn, from YouTube to podcasts, social media utilizes videos, pictures, writings, songs, and other postings to share your story, to share the story of your business. And because social media is so diverse in the ways you can communicate with it, you need to learn a little about all of them if you’re going to be successful using it for yourself or your business. I don’t necessarily think you need to be able to gauge metrics if you’re using social media for your personal account, but you should understand the basics of how the platforms work, and which ones are best for you.
4. It isn’t one way. Social media is most successful, and most beneficial, when it’s a two-way street. Social media is a conversation, and when it’s not, it’s marketing. And people don’t want to be marketed to, they want to have relationships with, to be taken care of, to have their needs taken care of, or their problems taken care of, and that requires you to be an active participant in social media. I think of the most recent situation with Tina Roth Eisenberg (@swissmiss), founder of CreativeMornings, in which she tried multiple times to contact someone with KitchenAid about a freezer that kept acting up, and she could reach no one. So, she turned to social media, where again, she got no response until after the Financial Times covered the incident. Again, when a business simply uses social media to push out info about their products, it becomes marketing.
Social media begs for it to be a conversation. If you’re a business, follow your social media feeds through a service like HootSuite. Stay on top if, when customers talk, talk back. If it’s your personal feeds, remember to respond to folks in a timely manner. Remember to follow up with questions. Above all, let it be natural, like a natural conversation.
5. It isn’t a free pass to say whatever you want to say. Never say something on Twitter you wouldn’t stand up and say in a crowded room of strangers, because that’s just what social media is sometimes. And because it’s hard to control just exactly who your posts will be sent to, you must remember that. Just because you can say, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, and continue to remind myself of this often. Social media gives you the instant gratification of having a thought, and being able to put it out for all the world to see, essentially allowing you to yell it to the world, but what is it you’re saying? Remember that your friends are made up of many different types of folks, from many different backgrounds, many different nationalities, many different religious faiths, and many different political associations. Does what you say respect those many different groups of people?
If it’s your personal social media, you may not care, but if it’s your business, you better care. Remember, all it takes is one errant tweet to bring your business down. If it’s your personal account, remember this, that anything you say on social media can and will likely be used against you in a court of law? Well, maybe not, but definitely to possible future employers. Possible suitors. Possible mother or father-in-laws. You name it. What seems harmless could come back to haunt you for years to come. It’s certainly not a free pass to say whatever you want.