Time Magazine has announced that Mark Zuckerberg, a 26 year old entrepreneur and creator of Facebook, is the “Time Person of the Year.” With much fanfare and gallons of ink devoted to the creative genius of the idea, business platform, and usefulness of the application; one out of every twelve people ON THE PLANET now has an account with Facebook. To say that it is a success is an understatement of epic proportions, and yet – businesses still are not leveraging it as well as they could.
The ways that businesses choose to use the social media outlets often are off strategy for their needs. One example of this is a colleague of mine who owns a small business that employs ten employees commented on how her partner had “friended” some of the employees and how that seemed to change the interpersonal dynamic within the workplace from a place of business to a place to catch up on postings, comments about pictures in profiles, and reduce the level of professionalism and increase the feeling of being school-aged kids sitting in the back row of a class and passing notes to each other instead of paying attention to their classwork.
One critic of how social media is being misapplied is Peter Shankman, who wrote a blog recently about his perspective on what businesses do that misses the mark for maximizing results. He rightly points out that social media needs to be an extension of the company’s marketing plans and integrated into the company’s strategy to generate sales, revenue, and profit. Instead, Shankman shares that the questions he received after he spoke to one Fortune 100 company centered around:
“1) So how do we get more followers?
2) So how do we get more likes?
3) Should we hold a contest to get more followers/likes?
4) How do we get our followers/likes to spread the word about us?”
Shankman continues that while these may be leaders in their field and smart people to boot, they are clearly mesmerized by the “shiny new toy” and have forgotten the basic principles still apply. His mantra when it comes to social media is captured in 5 basics:
Basic #1: IT’S ABOUT MAKING MONEY.
Any business executive would question a request from a subordinate to spend millions of dollars on events, advertisements, and activities that had as a goal – make people like us. And yet, Shankman points out that when the venue is social media, the same evaluative criteria are no longer applied. If it is not tied to generating income, revenue, or profit, it is not a smart business decision. If there is no ROI provided for the spend, then the decision needs to be rethought.
Basic #2: YOU DON’T MAKE MONEY WITH CONTESTS, PROMOTIONS, OR FREE STUFF.
Shankman points out that far too often the intention of a contest (to bring in new customers) goes awry and the people who respond are not prospects, customers, or even those that can introduce the business to new clients. Rather, they are people in search of something for nothing. They just want the free stuff. There is no loyalty, no relationship, no business to be had. Shankman proposes that the better approach is to hold a contest for the existing customers ONLY. In that way, the brand or the company is further solidified in their minds. To try to “buy” customers through a contest is a wasteful spend of money and social media will help accomplish the losing of money faster and deeper through the instantaneous nature of the communication.
Basic #3: Number of Friends/Followers are the equivalent of “My Daddy is Stronger than your Daddy”.
Shankman points out that numbers for the sake of numbers are a fool’s pursuit when the only thing that matters are number of CUSTOMERS, amount of REVENUE, and QUALITY of connection. In fact, he advises that it is best to cull the lists down periodically and actually remove people who are either not providing value or receiving value from the connection. If there is no business purpose to the connection, then Shankman recommends deleting the person from the “torture” of further communications.
The next one is a direct quote from his blog (with small edits to make the point without using some of the profanity in the original) that really captures the core point of his post:
Basic #4: CONVERSATIONS happen over beers. ENGAGEMENT happens over cash registers. Yes, it’s lovely when a brand converses with me. But you know what? A conversation isn’t going to make me buy. A conversation is something I have with my running partner during my cool-down run about how poor my non-cool down run was. I don’t want to converse with Nike or Pepsi. I want them to notice that I’m buying their product and reward me. I want them to help me when I have a question, and I sure as hell want them to engage me when I reach out with a problem. Conversation? Leave that for the Friday night bar-after-work scene.
Basic #5: Much like charity, all this stuff starts at home.
The last point made by Shankman is that rather than spend so much time monitoring what is said about a company, or focusing on having accounts on all of the leading social media sites (that then go unattended), companies would be better served to actually conduct the business when face-to-face at a customer pleasing level. Empower employees to act, review standards of performance so that clerks are trained and rewarded properly and many of the complaint tracking needs would be reduced or eliminated.
Social Media may be fun and may help connect people to each other, but businesses need to remember that they are not in existence purely for the emotional experience; there has to be a payoff for their actions that can be brought to the bank as a result or it is just simply a waste of time, energy, and resources.