It's easy to fall into a trap with social media
, of the unopened book scenario. You convince yourself that you now know about xyz because you've bought all the books on it. If the books stay unopened, unread, then you're in exactly the same position you were before you bought them. It's the same with social media. You can convince yourself that, as a company, you have a social media strategy because you've built a Facebook page or opened a Twitter account. If no-one's following you or talking back, then you're not engaging with social media. You've simply set up the tools to facilitate a strategy.
This is an easy mistake to make, most likely bought about by the lack of definable metrics. The importance of measuring your engagement is fundamental to finding out if it's working for you or not. The basics are easy enough. Within reason, anyone can set up a Facebook page in a matter of minutes. Whether it's actually good and whether people are talking to you on there is a completely different matter. Setting up your social media profiles is about 1% of the work, the other 99% is where you need to spend time building your community, developing the activity on these profiles and finding new ways to take the tools to new limits and develop innovative strategies. Don't get fooled into thinking that building these tools represents the sum effort of 'doing' social media. Remember that social media is a medium through which you get your message. It is not the message itself.
Many brands have fallen into the trap of thinking that a Facebook page is going to provide the answer to all their social media
problems. Many have languished in the meantime. A recent survey found that over a third of all Facebook pages had fewer than 100 fans. I don't think this is down the medium - Facebook is a great option for businesses, given the flexibility of Facebook pages to add new, additional functionality. It comes down to the fact that people aren't investing the time they need to, to make them work for them. Facebook isn't going to do it for you, it's merely providing the tools. It's the 99% that you need to invest to make it work.
What does the 99% involve?
The 99% of the work involved in building active social media profiles and a real community around your brand shouldn't be underestimated and I'm not going to promise that it's a quick win. It comes from knowing your target audience, knowing what they respond to and how you can interact with them in a way that adds meaning to their online experience. Underestimate this and you're underestimating the power of your customers. If you've done the work in building your profiles, then make sure you keep coming back to the original question of why you set them up the first place. Measure, measure and measure again to make sure you're on track.
Another common pitfall of social media is to chase all the new tools and sites and convince yourself you're ahead of the curve because you've got a username and profile page designed on there. Just because you've built it, it doesn't mean they will come. It's tempting to try and jump on the next new thing - I'm sure many brands are convinced that giving away free drinks to mayors on Foursquare is going to gurantee them social media success. But this is just a small drop in the big social media ocean, and it's important to remember that you need to spend time making your existing channels work for you before you're onto the next big thing. Jumping all over the place is going to result in a fragmented presence that will dilute the benefit to you and your business. I'll bring it back to my first point. Registering a username on a new site or setting up a profile doesn't mean that you're engaging in social media. It is just 1% of the effort needed.
This post is intended to help those who are undertaking social media to realise the effort that's involved. Don't get mis-sold with the fancy tools and designs. They're not going to sell themselves and the real skill comes in knowing how to take these tools and and convert them into actual conversations that are a benefit to your business. And remember that it's not just about the numbers, you have to give them meaning to find out if they're working for your business or not.