Starting social media is a lot like starting a family.
Before the baby comes, everything is all about cute outfits, spotless cribs and beautiful daydreams. But after the baby comes, reality sets in and you find yourself standing in the middle of the night with two hours sleep, your arms covered in poop, thinking “What. The. Heck. Just. Happened?”
Don’t get me wrong; social media can provide amazing experiences and rewards — just like kids do.
But, it can provide annoying, frustrating and confounding experiences, too. (The yin and yang of life, and all that.)
Most social media consultants don’t like to talk about that stuff. (Most companies don’t like to hear about it, either.)
I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re not one of those people. (Good for you! I like you already!)
So, if you’re ready for the truth. I’m ready to lay it on you…
1. Social media isn’t a thing, it’s a process…
A lot of companies talk about social media as if it were this thing…
- “Let’s turn on the social media.”
- “And then we’ll add the social media.”
- “What we need is social media!”
…kinda like social media is a member of The Avengers who is going to swoop in and save us all.
Social media isn’t a thing, it’s a process; a system. It’s a network of fallible humans talking to other fallible humans (and companies represented by fallible humans) through a variety of electronic tools.
Just like buying quality ingredients and a set of fancy pans won’t make you a great cook, setting up social media in Facebook or Twitter won’t automatically make you a great marketer.
YOU are the social part…not the platform. (Platforms are just vehicles through which you transmit and showcase your awesomeness.)
Are you not really all that awesome? Yeah…then this process is going to be hard for you.
2. …that goes with a lot of other processes.
Oh boy do companies like to put a lot of weight on social media’s shoulders, expecting it to transform something dysfunctional into something functional and carry it into a bright, shiny future.
The only way social media can be transformative for your company is when it is well-run and seamlessly integrated into all of your other communication processes, across the enterprise, with support from senior management.
The farther away you put social media from everything else your company is doing — the more you silo it within your company — the less effective it becomes.
No support from the top down, means no magic will be coming from the bottom up.
It’s like putting up one lone sign to promote your garage sale. Yeah, that might attract some cars. But if you want A LOT of cars — cars full of people searching for garage sales to shop at — you need to add a whole host of other directional signs, neighborhood word of mouth, advertising, etc. to your mix.
3. Social media requires care and feeding.
Social media isn’t a website. You don’t just build it, stick it on the interwebs and then cross it off your to-do list.
What you build isn’t half as important as what you put into what you’ve built.
Feed your social presence with garbage and you’ll get garbage right back out. Starve it (as so many companies do when they realize, “Hey, we don’t actually have very much to say.” or “Hey, no one will approve any content for us to post.”) and it will wither away and die.
Social is like a kid, remember? You can’t abandon it after it’s born or leave it up on a shelf to admire when you feel like it. You need to care for it. And the more care you give it, the better it will turn out.
4. Social media is a disruptive force.
Social media shakes things up for many companies — both internal and externally. It makes your company’s business more transparent and takes down the communication barriers between you and the people you serve/target.
Do not underestimate how much of a culture shock this can create.
You would not believe the number of companies I run into who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars planning for a social presence who become utterly freaked out when the time comes to finally start using it. (“Oh, we have to take down a firewall to use Facebook? Yeah, that’s not going to work for us.”)
There are a lot of things that need to be discussed before you jump into social media (which is where people like me come into play.) Cause it’s going to open a big can of worms for your company — sometimes wonderful worms…but worms nonetheless.
You need to establish policies and procedures to manage those worms (and have people who understand social media involved in establishing them.)
5. You are responsible for setting goals, boundaries and rules.
You can’t say to people, “Hey, reach out to us whenever! We’re here for you!” and, when they do, respond with, “Oh, I actually meant on Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. My bad.”
If you intend to engage within a rigid framework, you must communicate what this framework is to your audience.
Also, set some quantifiable goals for your company. If you just wander around and let the social media conversations take you where they want to go, you’ll quickly find yourself in no-man’s land.
Again, your participation is what makes social media work or not work (this is true for all things in life.) You are not totally driving the bus in social media, but you’re not just along for the ride, either.
You’re the parent…confidently making it up as you go.