The Five Dangerous Realities of Social Media for Business

Jay Baer By Jay Baer
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The Crossroads: Social or Media? As social networking has soared to become the largest voluntary behavior this side of teeth brushing, the money guys have shown up on the scene – right on cue. By all accounts, social media is a gold rush, with companies and consultants of all sizes and descriptions jockeying for a piece of a pie estimated to be $1.6 billion in the U.S. alone.

So we’re faced with a dilemma: do we want to focus on the social, or focus on the media? By my reckoning, from a business perspective we’re tilting toward the latter.

Thus, I’ve identified the 5 Dangerous Realities of Social Media for Business.

1. We’re Strategizing Wrong

Every time I hear the words “twitter strategy” I want to smack someone in the head. By definition, Twitter is not a strategy. It is a tactic, to be incorporated into a much broader social media strategy that in turn serves the overall company objectives.

We have to stop wrapping ourselves around the axle about the tools. They will change. They always do. How’s your Second Life Strategy working out?

The key is to develop sound, tools-agnostic programs that focus on how your company can “be” social, not how it should “do” social.

2. We’re Integrating Wrong

Social media is an ingredient, not an entree. Adding social media frosting to the cake you already own should be first objective. And let’s stop putting the cool cart before the uncool horse. Why are you worrying about your Facebook page if your email program is inadequate?

Even in the best case scenario, social media marketing alone isn’t going to create legions of customers out of thin air. Especially because the majority of people that interact with companies on the social Web are already familiar with those companies. Social participation is almost entirely opt-in. Thus, you are mostly preaching to the choir. That doesn’t invalidate social media marketing, it just positions it largely as a loyalty, retention, and lead nurturing vehicle, rather than as a pile of magic beans.

Social media is the great tiebreaker in the sport of modern business.

3. We’re Executing Wrong

The difference between helping and selling is just two letters, but they are incredibly important letters. Recognize that you earn the right to promote in social media by being helpful first.

This necessitates that companies focus less on crafting cheeky and concise outbound bon mots, and focus more on responding to customers and prospects with speed and authenticity. Answer the social telephone first, and then worry about making cold calls.

There’s plenty of business out there on the social Web for companies to capitalize upon. But it doesn’t often come from firing off your 140-character press release every four hours. Instead, business comes from having your antenna up, and finding opportunities to inform, delight, educate, and entertain.

The Opportunity Economy is very real, but you have to embrace the paradoxical notion that social media results are often accrued over the long haul, as you engage with prospects and current customers a few at a time.

4. We’re Staffing Wrong

To have enough antenna up to find and capitalize on all of the real-time opportunities presented by the social Web (see this month’s nominees for NOW Revolutionary of the month for amazing case studies), you need to get many more people in your company involved socially.

It’s not just about marketing. It’s about social business design, baking social elements into the daily life of all corners of your organization. (Great post by Olivier Blanchard on the difference between these approaches).

In most companies today, social is a job. Somebody(ies) is the social media person, centralizing and managing listening, responding, analyzing and other tasks. That will change as companies recognize social’s importance and the need to have more antenna up than one person or a few people can provide.

You know what else used to be a job? Typing. Watch Mad Men. There was a whole room of women that just typed. Every day. But now, typing is a skill. History will repeat. Social media needs to be a skill, not a job.

5. We’re Measuring Wrong

Social is incredibly measurable. We showcase more than 25 viable success metrics in my book The NOW Revolution. But the problem is we’re too often focused on numbers that simply aggregate. They don’t measure behavior, or any type of financial reward.

Why do we do this? Why do we pay attention to things like Facebook fans and Twitter followers when they don’t measure behavior? We need to focus on activating people in social, not just collecting them. That means a newfound emphasis on calls to action, integrated metrics, correlation studies, and smart attribution.

Work Harder

As I look at the 5 Dangerous Realities of Social Media for Business, I see a common thread. All of these contemporary (and hopefully temporary) shortcomings – Strategy, Integration, Execution, Staffing, Measurement all have the same root cause.

Quite simply, we’re just not working hard enough at social. In every respect, doing it well is substantially more involved than doing it poorly. And for now many companies are either unwilling to make that level of commitment, or uncertain as to its payback potential.

Nobody promised social media would be easy, just that it would be awesome.

Are you ready to put the effort into making it about social, not media?

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About Jay Baer
Jay Baer is a tequila-loving, hype-free social media strategy consultant and coach. An online marketing pro since 1994, he's worked with more than 700 companies, and 25 of the Fortune 1000. He's one of the world's most popular social media bloggers, creator of the 8-step Social Media Strategic Planning Process, and the Twitter 20 series of live Twitter interviews. He spreads his "think tools last, not first" message around the country like a digital dandelion, speaking to conferences, small groups, or passers-by. Check out his blog at Convince&Convert.

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