Social media expectations

There is a huge amount of hype wrapped around social media these days. As more companies start to see the value a comparable number of hucksters start chiming in with the perfect way to rocket to success for a low low (actually high) price.

No I’m not going on THAT rant again. This is a different one. With all this hype clients expect instant results with basically little effort. They’ve been told that social media builds it’s own traffic and their new friends and users become evangelists for their product. While this is in part true it’s not going to happen over-night or without and effort. Like any good marketing or branding campaign you need to take some time to engage, entertain and educate your audience before they are dazzled by your brilliance and begin to prostelitize.

Yes, you can get somebody to set you up with rockin’ good networks, lots of followers and a big splashy attention-grabbing campaign, but that’s only the start of it. Any social media presence will continue to need careful nurturing to grow and develop in the direction you want it to go. Forever. Drop the ball and dis-engage, dissemble instead of talking back, or stop paying attention and your users will turn their backs and go someplace more engaging. They may or may not come back when you suddenly become the “fun” friend again.

I’m not trying to tell you it isn’t worth the time invested. Nooo, I’d be the last one to tell you that. Engaging in social media has payoffs you can’t foresee. What I’m saying is, it’s not going to happen overnight. There is no magic genie. You can’t bring in somebody to create a campaign, let it do it’s thing and then drop the ball or let it drift off into the ozone and expect loyal relationships with your users.

Like any good media campaign you need to have a solid strategy behind it and a plan for how it’s going to continue to work down the road. There needs to be room to grow and an openess to letting your users direct your progress. That means you have to listen, react and listen again to keep the engagement going. Keep the flow going any way you can until things start to move forward on their own. Then–and only then–you can back off a bit and let things self direct a little. You still need to listen, but you will have help from your users to keep the ball rolling.

Is it expensive? It doesn’t have to be, but remember to value your own time as well as that of everybody else involved. Somebody has to take the time to engage, listen and understand what users are telling you and find ways to connect and transmit this knowledge back to the company in a useful way. Somebody has to measure the metrics and come up with new ideas, learn new tools and read about what the competition is doing. Call it sweat equity. Decide how much time that is going to be and stick to it. The amount of commitment may change based on how effective it is, or with the ebb and flow of a hot campaign, but figure out what the base level is and make sure you always do at least that much. You can hire a contractor to help measure and evaluate and keep you on top of the best tools and tactics, but you still have to be involved in the process.

You can’t fake your engagement. An outside vendor with dozens of other clients is probably not going to give your users the love they need. Sure, bring in a consultant (ask for references) and let them help you craft a plan. Listen to their expertise in the tools of the trade and their experience and apply it to your goals. Now find the people in your organization who really like to listen and engage and come up with new ways to get your message out. Encourage them to run with it and see where it goes. Just please, don’t drop the ball until you’ve given it a chance.

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