The Social Media Isolation Chamber
December 10, 2009 27 Comments
One of the great things about being involved in social networking is the robust – even heated at times – discussions we get to have. There are very smart people wrestling with important issues, not in a top-down command-and-control fashion, but in a creative level-playing-field manner.
Two rather noisy issues of late have to do with social media certification (check this post by Jason Falls and follow the links if you want to get the entire backstory), and the ever-present discussion of ROI in social media (see Olivier Blanchard for this material).
These are very important issues. But along with the many other discussions about social media, I think we have too much of a tendency (still) to put Social Media in an isolation chamber.
Social Media tools and approaches are a means to an end – or, rightly understood, to multiple ends.
Think about it this way:
1. What am I/are we trying to accomplish? (what is our goal – in this case, let’s focus on business only)
– Let’s say that our goal is to increase sales of our software service by 35% in 2010.
2. How are we going to accomplish that goal?
– Let’s say that we are going to build relationships with key thought-leaders who will influence others; along with making use of inexpensive ways of PR/Marketing messaging to our potential target audience; plus we’re going to add 2 key new features that are being requested often.
3. What are the methods we are going to use to make this happen?
– Direct sales calls; articles/write-ups in industry magazines; cultivation of key thought leaders by regular communication and relationship-building; attendance at 3 trade shows and sponsorship of 1; monthly webinars; exploration of Facebook and Twitter to build an audience/fan base; free trial program; etc. etc.
OK, so we have a business goal and a holistic plan. Now, where’s “social media”? Answer – all over the place! If you look at the methods suggested above, social media can be/is woven into the whole thing, because it’s part of a broad communications and promotion strategy. And using these approaches will likely help you shape your strategies going forward.
Done rightly, social networking is baked into an entire approach, and you can no more separate out the ROI of SM than you can separate out the ROI of, say, “print” or “e-mail.” You might be able to isolate out specific SM tactics and approaches (what is happening with our Facebook fan page, and can we trace sales directly from it?), but you can’t treat networked communications as some carved-out, independent piece – it’s not designed to be. And, it should not be treated as a short-term bit, but part of a long-term holistic strategy.
Did we achieve the 35% increase in 2010? How much time/effort/resources did we expend on the whole plan? Now you can think intelligently about ROI. Holistically.
The same line of thought goes with social media “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we’re “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent trainer) – that’s great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It’s simply too vaporous.
Now, backing away from any of the particulars of the ROI or certification debate – should we not begin to move our THINKING and SPEAKING and WRITING about social networking out of the isolation chamber, and embed it in real and tangible – even holistic – applications? I guess, to put it simply – social media is not stand-alone.
As Jay Baer put it recently on his blog Convince and Convert:
Sure, social media has made incredible progress in a short period of time. But to reach its full potential – especially from an ROI perspective – social media needs to be a component in a larger marketing program. Yes, I believe all companies will “be” social eventually. But that’s not a marketing strategy, that’s a cultural initiative. We need to treat social media as a marketing ingredient, not a marketing cure-all.
What do you think?
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