I can’t help the twinge of irritation I feel when I’m told, “Social media is so easy, a monkey could do it.”
Well, sure it is, in the sense that you can basically be anywhere and have a “presence” regardless of what sort of content you post. But to make that content profitable or return some sort of positive result — that’s where actual business strategy comes in. Encyclopedic research, constant testing, and aggressive networking through these channels, not to mention the ability to quickly and easily adjust to organic change in the social market — it’s all relevant.
On a phone call the other night with an old colleague of mine who remains within the small group of individuals I’ve grown to respect, I was describing a brief and tiny segment of social strategy that I know, through experience, to be both highly profitable and extremely effective. And while I normally respect his opinions on most things — including the odd bit of relationship advice — I found his response to my explanation to be somewhat ignorant.
As I was trailing on about my ideas during our Skype video chat, he teasingly made a jerking off motion with his hand, causing me to pause and react defensively with, “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Cheri,” he began, “social media is simple: Don’t be a dick.”
“Duh, but come on — there’s so much more beyond that when it comes to branding and presence. No one just starts off being the center of a million networks through social media. It takes–!” I stopped and stuttered suddenly when he repeated the same colorful hand motion, shocked (as I normally am when he does this) that he would challenge what I passionately feel to be correct. Of course, I laughed and rolled my eyes in defeat, deciding that, at this point, my rant on the topic would only fall on deaf ears.
This explains why you are suddenly looking at one massive entry on social media management versus strategy.
Some companies and people still don’t get it.
Would you say that social media is “simple”? Or do you, like me, understand or feel passionate about the various creative strategies one can employ in order to manipulate return on investment and profitability?
Let me give you some examples of companies I’ve worked on or have become acquainted with that simply do not understand social media nor what an established presence on various platforms can do for its reputation.
While working with several startups or companies, etc in the past, I’ve heard various complaints that simply annoy me. Not because I’m easily irritable, but because when I see the problems presented, I’ve already done enough research, written my own analysis, and have enough experience with those issues to address it and iterate on the situations directly. If a problem can be solved now and if I am an employee willing to undertake that responsibility, not to mention my proven track record for success, why turn down free and effective labor?
One company I briefly worked for, for example, failed to see the profitability in one extremely engaged social media presence and so kept this potential profit “on the back burner”. This low-priority mindset towards social media is, naturally, something I continue to laugh about to this day — especially with the fantastic results companies who’ve leapt onto the social media trend early are already producing. Of course, the internal team culture at this particular brand was absolutely awful (from my perspective, anyway), so I chalk up their ignorant view on the importance of social media as a sign that the company simply did not understand how to run its own business with an open mind towards emerging markets and trends, much less manage its own employees in a way that would produce more profitable results.
Another company I tested the waters with just didn’t seem to get the big picture, and didn’t seem to understand that social media is not just simply tweeting or simply posting a link on Facebook. In particular, I was told, “Video content doesn’t do well with us, Cheri. It just doesn’t have a high enough return for us to invest in it.” To which my response was, of course, that the reason video wasn’t doing well for them was because they hadn’t bothered to invest in it. To prove my point, I brought up several case studies where video was extremely profitable for other companies, outlining the strategies behind those cases as well as the reasons why they were able to make these strategies profitable. Then, as I often do when proposing something I am passionate about, I offered to undertake the development of this company’s severely-lacking video content strategy for no charge, in addition to my current workload, and with no increase in my actual salary.
Again, I was turned down even with a solid proposal.
How this makes sense still continues to baffle me.
First, understand the basics of what the bare minimum in social media is.
Video content, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, SEO, social media ROI, emerging social platforms, community culture, quality leads, influencers, the networks of those influencers, the mutual benefits of partnering with other influencers, the relationship between companies and press, the ability to network and develop relationships both in person with current or potential clients, combined with the ability to translate all of that into the face of a company’s social media presence — Is all of this really “simple”?
I argue the contrary.
There are some community managers, along with those who claim to be “social media strategists”, who feel that, yes, social media is simple, and also happen to think that they can get by with doing the bare minimum. Again, a tweet here, a Facebook post there, a reply to a comment wherever — these are people who are merely scraping the surface of what social media has to offer, and who I would hardly call “strategists”.
Likewise, for any established social media presence (be it a public figure, company, or brand of some sort), social media can also be simple. These people have put the work in that it takes to market whatever idea, product, or service it happens to be selling, and due to the work it has invested in its campaigns through both social media and traditional marketing, these companies or brands can now sit back, relax, and allow the wealth of content to do the networking for it based on reputation alone.
*I believe I wrote an article lightly touching on the subject in the past called “Passive Networking“, a social media term of my own invention that involves putting in the hard work earlier on in order to establish your social “face” or “voice”, after which you can relax and let the profits come in through organic means.
Social media strategy — this is a completely different game.
Social Media Management vs. Social Media Strategy
Social media management is what one does when a company’s social presence is already established, and is at the level of profitability and engagement that the company has come to expect through this method. This is probably the easiest job any social media enthusiast can ever land, and is, in my mind, akin to lazy community management. For me, this is the sort of job that doesn’t present enough creatively challenging situations to keep me motivated, and is one that is entirely too routine to satisfy my aggressive mindset.
Social media strategy, however, involves the creative development of techniques, projects, and activities followed by effective execution — all designed to create a social reputation for a company out of nothing, while understanding how to put that reputation in the right hands and in front of the right eyes in order to both aggressively hype and spread that same reputation. It’s a combination of marketing, PR, media outreach, community management, business development, etc. — it takes complete dedication, especially when crafting a strategy for a company which has absolutely none.
With this in mind, I’d argue that sure, social media can be simple for those who are simply existing on it without the aggressive ambition towards developing more positive results in the future. Sure, social media is simple for those who are merely content with whatever current presence they already have.
But for those who crave more, for those who are willing to put in the work towards growing their presence while understanding the ins and outs, the various case studies available, the wealth of knowledge one can devour related to the social space, and the creative strategies one can employ to, again, manipulate the current social trends for positive return — social media and the various platforms available to practice it represent one massive and creative playground for the passionate marketer or strategist.
But, with a shrug I ask, what do I know?
I get it. Not everyone is as crazy about this new form of marketing as I am.
I was told during a meeting the other week that my understanding of this space and my passion for it represents a new skill set that simply cannot be taught in school, and because of my interesting/extensive background experience and, again, proven track record for success, I make one ideal candidate for social media strategy. Of course, this is a subject that I am so deathly passionate about that I simply cannot help spouting off about it at every turn. And yet, because it is so “new”, I often find my rants to be the subject of criticism even by the people I’ve grown to respect — much like my colleague’s hand-motion reaction to my social strategy explanation earlier on in this entry.
Knowing this, I look forward to the day when social media can become one truly measurable science, and to the moment the social “scene” is globally accepted as a profitable investment by companies, politicians (Obama had a head start on this, of course, and won because of it), public figures, brands, and whoever else I’m missing that might potentially benefit from this free and open social playground.
But until then, I am perfectly content with being seen as overly obsessed with social media strategy.
As the saying goes, “First!”
XOXO Cheri XOXO