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Monday 14 February 2011

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Social media sounds easy but it’s not.

Used correctly by teenagers constantly seeking assurance that they belong, that they are popular and cool, it’s a no-brainer. They’ll put in the work because their very identity depends on it.

But for business, social media is a chore.

From my experience, most businesses embarking on a social media path do it because they don’t want to miss out on anything. There is very little expectation of an improvement in their bottom line, but they somehow get the feeling that they are investing in the future.

I count myself in this category. In my media businesses I think I am up to my third Facebook page and everyone of them is languishing for the same reason – the novelty quickly wears off and they become ignored.

And here’s the first lesson. Getting a “young person” to do it because it’s perceived to be a young person’s thing is a mistake. Being of the same generation will obviously help an author connect with his or her audience.

But making social media work relies on two things:

  • Having something worthwhile to say; and
  • Maintaining the discipline of actually doing it.

My Facebook business experiences have failed because of lack of discipline.

Twitter, on the other hand, has been a better experience. I use the 140-character “tweet” for little news flashes. And there’s no real pressure to come up with something. If there’s news, then tweet. If not, then don’t.

My thinking is that people will follow if they get quality information.

The number of “friends” or “followers” is the obvious metric in social media. But it’s a flawed measure because you see examples of people “following” hundreds (if not thousands) of others and you just know that they physically can’t pay attention to them all.

If a business is using social media for communications (as opposed to sales), then the only way of measuring success would be how much feedback it gets. And even then, an instinctive approach is the best way to measure it.

If it’s sales you want, then sales are the metric.

I’ve seen some great local operators in this space. One person in particular I rate highly.

Operating in the hospitality space, her employer’s return on investment must be off the scale. I see the effort online and it’s massive. “When does this person sleep?” I think. I see the bums on seats in her venues and I see the empty tables in neighbouring businesses.

One clever technique I learned from her was to offer a chance to win something in return for “following” or re-tweeting. It never ceases to amaze me how people put themselves forward if they think they’ll “win” something.

I personally wouldn’t subject myself to future “spam” for a chance to win a discount off a meal. But, hey, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It becomes viral and results in more and more “followers”.

And in consumer marketing, it’s the numbers that count.

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