There’s no such thing as a short cut

22 Annual Bataan Death March- 010 by West Point Public Affairs

Time and again I come across examples of companies who seemingly expect social media to solve their marketing problems as though it is some kind of magic marketing formula. But as with any new technology, practice or procedure, implementing social media as part of your marketing strategy takes time, effort and a good deal of planning.

Social media is evolving at a rapid pace and I believe that it can play an important role within any company – big, small, consumer-focused or B2B. But as with any other tactic or tool, social media must be researched and thought through thoroughly in order for it to be integrated into the marketing strategy effectively.

What do you want to achieve?

A clear set of goals, objectives and milestones must be put in place along with an individual or team who understands social media and how it should be used. Creating an impromptu Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel without a clear endgame in mind is to use social media as another marketing ‘add-on’, separated from the values, personality and image of the brand.

Brand consistency is essential in today’s increasingly crowded online space and social media plays a vital role in generating brand awareness across both the traditional and social web.

Stay the course

The consequences of a poorly executed social media marketing plan can be dire for a brand. Consider the business that hasn’t tweeted since January 2008 or the company blog with only a handful of posts and little or no comments. It looks lazy.

Social media is not a quick fix – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Social media is about building relationships and engagement and this requires constant and consistent attention over a long period of time.

I’ve often suggested to companies that if they cannot guarantee the time and commitment needed to use social media correctly then it’s probably better that they don’t use it at all. It’s far better to focus on the channels you can use well than spread yourself – and your brand – thin across a variety of social media sites that aren’t being maintained.

Set out a clear plan of action

A social media strategy doesn’t have to be ‘War and Peace‘ but it does have to be a document detailed enough to coherently map out why you want to use social media, how you are going to use it and with whom. If you haven’t got the time to put a simple plan together I doubt you’ll have the time to consistently engage with communities using social media.

There’s no such thing as a short cut

Social media is new, exciting and fun and an area of marketing I really enjoy. But social media is a paradigm shift from an outbound marketing to an inbound marketing approach and it takes time to understand and appreciate the intricacies and nuances of this new way of thinking.

The brands that use social media well are the ones that will do the work to understand how it should be used correctly as part of their overall marketing plan. This takes time and effort.

There’s no such thing as a short cut.

  • susanalexander

    Really good post, Gavin.

    You wrote: “I’ve often suggested to companies that if they cannot guarantee the time and commitment needed to use social media correctly then it’s probably better that they don’t use it at all.

    One particular example comes to mind: a large food market that’s long been an NYC institution.  It’s in the process of opening new locations in and around the city. It posts huge signs that say “Follow us on Twitter.”  I did that once, but it’s stream is so anemic, and the times I mentioned them or @ messaged them went completely unnoticed (apparently).  So I stopped.  Like you say – if you’re not going to do a good job of it, best not to do it at all.

    I’m thinking that a lot of businesses probably are in the same place as many individuals, in terms of Twitter, anyway – they don’t understand the WHY of it, i.e. why they should be on it in the first place.  It’s good there are professionals out there who can explain it clearly. Once you do, you can carry on with them as to the other aspects (how, when, etc.).Great post!Susan

    • Gavin Llewellyn

      Hi Susan, thank you very much for the great comment and your kind words.

      It might seem radical to some to suggest not using social media at all (after all, social media seems to be the flavour of the month, year and decade!) but if you’re unprepared or even unable to use it in the right way then why not focus on the channels you can use well? TV, radio and press advertising may not be as trendy and cool as a Facebook page, but if you’re getting the leads and sales from those channels why put you’re efforts elsewhere?

      The example you’ve used is very similar to the experiences I’ve had (with both small and big brands). In addition to appearing unprofessional, a badly managed Twitter account or Facebook page can frustrate and irritate customers (which is even worse if they end up going elsewhere!).

      You’re absolutely right when you say that many individuals and companies don’t understand the WHY of social media although I’m hoping that over time this will become clearer. Although social media has been around for the best part of ten years in one form or another, it’s still a relatively new concept for many businesses to get their heads around. But hopefully with a little bit of research and guidance from those that do know about social media, we’ll see less Twitter streams with un-engaging, anemic content!