In conversations with other social media enthusiasts I often hear it predicted that the term “social media” will eventually become just “media.” While I believe this to be true, I, for one, want to hang on to this more descriptive term, at least for the time being. Here’s the reason why:
I work with small businesses that are ready to embrace social media as a business tool. Most of them, however, are doing it because they feel they have to. That’s it. Their objective for using social media goes no deeper than that. I’m then faced with the challenge of getting them to think through their rationale. That process usually reveals the fact that they don’t really understand social media . . . in fact, most aren’t even using social media as a consumer. They simply want to jump in and start using it as a business.
Traditional methods fail in new media
The first thing most businesses want to do is use new media – emerging media – social media – as a channel to deliver traditional marketing messages that are formed using traditional marketing methods. That’s when I enter the scene and begin chanting the mantra, “It’s SOCIAL media, not SALES media.”
I can’t take full credit for that snappy little chant. Unfortunately, though, I can’t give credit to the rightful person, either. My own understanding of social media has developed over the years with the help of brilliant minds like Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, Brian Solis, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Jay Baer. I can’t remember where I read, “It’s SOCIAL media, not SALES media” [my emphasis]; but when I did, it resonated so clearly with me that I found myself saying it in my sleep. I’m still having difficulty getting it to resonate with owners of small businesses, though; especially if they don’t have even a fundamental understanding of what social media is.
First, use social media as a consumer
Since adding social media strategy services to my consulting practice two years ago, I have revised my requirements for taking on new clients interested in using social media as a business tool. Now, before I discuss helping a business enter the social media environment, the business owner must already be using social media as a consumer. For example, they must have a personal Facebook profile, be tweeting from a personal account, and regularly view or upload YouTube videos. If they don’t have this experience, I’m happy to guide them and get them familiar with how us consumers use social media.
Social rules apply to social networks
My rationale for this approach is that social media platforms are designed for social interaction. Social rules apply. Social networks are a lot like social events, and those who arrived early have set the pace, theme and mood within their communities. Jumping in and disrupting the atmosphere with inappropriate behavior (i.e., spam, marketing messages, selfish blabber) will get you ousted.
Business owners need to see how this works. They need to respect the social network for what it is – a social setting. If they don’t, they’ll know how it feels to be a social outcast.
Photo by bonkedproducer on flickr