Social Media will not save your business

It also won’t make your marketing program successful, and it certainly won’t drive revenue either. That is — if it’s not integrated into an existing business ecosystem that, ahem, works.

What social media can do is amplify almost any area of your business: customer acquisition, customer marketing, support, PR, HR, business intelligence, sales, and most other business areas you can think of. But mapping social activities to business goals doesn’t happen magically. And while social can certainly help these areas, it’s not going to fix what’s already broke.

Social media is not magic

For example, if your customer care is terrible, hanging out your shingle on Twitter specifically for customer service is not going to solve your organizational problem. In fact, it might expose more faults than it mitigates. If your marketing strategy is nothing more than a program designed to offer tired discounts, then posting those tired discounts on Facebook is not going to make them any more special or exciting.

Another myth is that just by developing and maintaining an engaged community, companies can drive revenue. Think of an engaged community as the supports of your bridge. In order to reach your goals you must build upon that foundation. An engaged community alone will not get you to your goal.

Often there is a BIG disconnect in businesses between the idea and the desired result, as if having a huge amount of Facebook fans will magically put dollars in the bank.

Social media is not a one (or two) trick pony

To be fair, social media can be confusing because it’s often playing several roles simultaneously. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time because you have to keep the steady drumbeat of content and community management while creating campaigns and programs specifically aimed at meeting a goal.

When people talk about “doing” social media, most often they’re referring to the functions of community management. In essence, community management is the deliberate development of a relationship between a brand and its customers and prospects on a social media channel. At its most basic level, the goals of community management are to:

a) Increase audience size

b) Drive socially-visible engagement actions

c) Grow trust, loyalty, and even love (or at least affection) for a brand

Can’t buy me love

Sure you can buy Facebook fans and spend lots of money on advertising, but that only buys you exposure, not loyalty or affection. Like any solid relationship, it will take time, persistence, charm, and a deep understanding of your audience for all that effort to pay off.

It also takes a community manager who not only knows your business inside and out, but also has a deep understanding of the technology and tools at their disposal and how specific types of content drive specific engagement “love metrics.”

Community management is hard. It takes time, resources, and a bit of trial and error to get it just right. You also can’t immediately measure business results.

So why do it?

  • When you’re building your community, you’re laying the groundwork for a referral engine
  • You’re staying top of mind and putting money in the bank against mistakes or bad publicity (“brand insurance”)
  • You’re creating a channel where you can quickly and easily communicate news and announcements
  • You’re adding value to your business by delivering relevant information to your audience
  • You’re cultivating a space where customers can quickly and easily get their questions answered and their problems resolved — and your business gets to show off how responsive you are to your customers’ needs
  • You’re creating a forum where you can learn about your customers preferences and needs
  • You’re developing a network that connects with millions of other networks
  • Most importantly, you’re creating the conditions to let your customers do your marketing for you

There’s no amount of marketing you can do or money you can spend that will equal the recommendation of friend.

Effective, well-supported community management is a long-tail investment. You may not see the “return” on it for months or even a year, but like any good thing, it’s worth investing in and waiting on because of its potential power. The trick is to nail the community management piece down and then layer in specific business drivers appropriate for the channel.

What has your experience with social media been like? Let me know in the comments below.