Social Media Marketing: So Much More than Tools

By Frank Reed, Principal of Frank Thinking

With the whole field of social media marketing coming together over the past few years, there has been a feeling of constant change. Twitter has gone more mainstream in the past 18 months, Google Buzz has jumped into the fray, Facebook fan pages have gained momentum, and corporate blogging is getting the true attention it deserves. As a result, it will be important to quickly recognize what actions a company must take in this frantic environment so time and resources wasted are limited.

The first focus, and perhaps the most important one, is avoiding what I call social media “tool mania.” This condition results from people getting caught up in the swirl of experts and gurus crying out for everyone to be using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and any other tool that is available in today’s social media marketing marketplace. The implication being if you are not using these tools, you are not an effective marketer.

What has thus been created in this initial wave of social media marketing efforts is a focus on the tools to be used with little or no consideration for the business application of the tools. I tell people that while a screwdriver is a fantastic tool, you are not going to paint a house with one. The same basic theory applies to social media marketing. If a tool such as a Facebook fan page or a blog simply does not fit your business needs, then you may not need to have one. Social media heresy, I know, but more often than not, these ill-conceived efforts end up costing companies valuable time and resources with little or no return.

So why the rush to apply these tools without the appropriate assessment of the business application? Well, people don’t want to seem like they are not current or cool. Since “everyone” has a Facebook fan page or Twitter presence, then I have to as well, right?

First, the statistics don’t bear out the “everyone is doing it” theory. A Burson-Marstellar study published in February 2010 shows that 65 percent of the Fortune Global 100 had active accounts on Twitter, 54 percent had a Facebook fan page, 50 percent had a YouTube channel, and 33 percent had corporate blogs. While encouraging, these numbers really say little, because having a presence is no indication or guarantee of success. Just look at the graveyard of Facebook presences that haven’t been updated in months and blogs that have been left to rot on the vine. These do more damage than good, so were they really a smart use of resources? Not likely.

So what are we to do? Well, it’s pretty basic. Research where your customers are, determine how your competition is engaged in social media, get the right resources in place, establish KPIs that are truly measurable, and then proceed with business acumen and solid business common sense. Be careful, though, because many of the social media “tool purveyors” don’t have the business skills and knowledge, due to lack of overall business experience.

A general who takes his troops into battle with plenty of weapons but no battle plan would be labeled a fool. My question then becomes is there any difference in a social media marketer doing the same thing?

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