Social media maniacs, viral marketeers, bloggers and Web-casters — your arsenal of strategy is white hot and more popular than the center cafeteria table. And with good (eh, maybe decent) reason. The outreach works. It’s inexpensive compared to traditional efforts, and from Foursquare to Facebook, it’s just fun.
But there’s still something that’s going to knock it on its heels: Reality.
Earlier this week, Mike enjoyed the privilege of participating in Social Media Strategy, an interactive panel session hosted by Business Innovation Growth in Charlotte, NC. It was a full afternoon of conversation, questions and answers regarding the effectiveness of social media in both B2B and B2C contexts. And like so many of these exchanges, it took place (irony alert) in real time, in the real world — with cocktails afterward.
One of the most important realizations resulting from our participation in that panel was that there’s no need to beat the death out of the “social media buy-in” message. Self-proclaimed experts hell bent on simply describing social media benefits are a few spaces back on the board; most companies are at the “ok, enough people are doing it – I want to do it too” phase. The challenge now is that getting started is still overwhelming to them.
Rest easy. If you have any appreciation for marketing, you’re already on board. Social media effectiveness is built on basic marketing principles: company buy-in, clear program objectives, ongoing testing, analysis and improvement. These apply regardless of media.
The best way to start a social media effort? Start a social media effort. Pick a point, choose a goal, and commit to the channel. Don’t treat it as a the holy grail. Instead, think of it as another outlet that deserves the same respect as advertising, PR, traditional web presence, broadcast, print, etc.
Of course, don’t forget what we learned by simply showing up: information sharing, thought leadership, and business interaction is sometimes best facilitated by smiles, handshakes, and the actual exchange of business cards. Mike left Charlotte with new friends, a fresh perspective, and several valuable points of contact from which our business will inevitably benefit.