Thursday, May 13, 2010

Social Media = Convos, Not Monologues

So, every once in a while, I get into these great discussions on LinkedIn (my business social network site) and it always gets me thinking on how much social media is misused in the business sphere. Yesterday (Tuesday) I replied to a post where someone was asking if joining a bunch of social networking sites was effective. And the original poster (OP) cited a friend of their's who joined like 10 - 15 sites, posted content daily and upgraded their page rank to the 2nd page. That's awesome right? No not really, and here's how I explained my reasoning:

That's not an effective use of time nor does it mean that your social campaign is truly effective. Yes, he gained rank, but that doesn't mean that people really know who he or his company is and what they do, and why they should want to use his company. I'm a social marketer, and I wouldn't recommend that someone use more than two or three social sites. For example, I have a FB, Twitter and LinkedIn account. My FB is linked to my Twitter so I'm not racing back and forth between the two. Everytime I make a tweet, it automatically goes to my FB page.

Yes, being active on a social site will increase your Google rankings, but I was able to push my rank to dominating page 1 (as well as doing that for some of my clients) without going on every social page. The reality is that social pages shouldn't be dominating your time - otherwise when are you getting real work done? And, how can you really have "conversations" with people if you're on every site known to man? That's the whole point of businesses using social media - to put a face to the company/to connect directly with consumers. If you're on all the social sites, then you're spending two or three hours doing mundane updates and not focusing on the response rates to your posts.

Plus, there's also the issue that not every social site will really address your demographic. For example, if you're marketing to people in the older half of Gen Y, why are you on Myspace? Myspace has essentially become the teenage playground (and young teens at that 13 - 15 year olds). So, I think your friend did a shot in the dark. It was effective in that it increased his Google page rank, but he probably could have gotten similar & more meaningful results with a bit less effort and more targeting.

And then I got a private inMail from a group member who read my response and asked specifically why they weren't receiving results for some of their social media campaigns for their company. They were posting to quite a few different networks, knew that it probably wasn't the best use of their time/efforts, but wasn't sure how to approach management with their feelings. So, I said: 

Hi [name withheld for privacy!],

It's about frequency & conversation, not just the total placements. Besides the fact that posting all over the place is just exhausting, you're not giving yourself the chance to see what the response rates are to your content/updates. One thing I noticed when I first started on Twitter (long before I jumped on the FB craze) was that the people who seemed to have the most followers & the most influence (when you hubspot someone's name) were the people who seemed to be "regulars" on Twitter. Maybe they posted about work things, but then they also posted nice random posts about just whatever they're doing. And most importantly, they replied to other people's posts. That's a conversation - rather than just posting content which comes across as a one way monologue.

Social media is supposed to humanize a brand - so if a company is just doing shot in the dark approaches by posting to too many services at once, it's disorienting to consumers and also makes them feel like the company is somewhat of a fraud. That you don't really want to connect with them, but just have an online presence (sort of a "me too" effect). It's a fine line with social media, and that's also a reason why I don't recommend that people post to more than 2 or 3 sites. If you spread yourself too thin, it shows and in turn makes it harder to connect with your consumer base. Of course, you can also link your services together to save time (much like I linked my Twitter to my FB account) but that still isn't an excuse to join too many sites at once.

Keep in mind page rank means nothing other than the Google/search engine crawler came across your name or meta tags that much more often than your competitors - it doesn't mean that consumers are actually searching you. Conversations will get you high ranks & more importantly, consumer recognition. Otherwise, you run the risk like the guy in the OP's post. Yes, he got page rank, but he got page 2 even after being on all those sites, and yet he still doesn't know whether or not consumers know who he is. And in the end, that's the point of social media, to get others to sing your praises and recommend you or relay your info to others without you having to pay for an expensive campaign.

Let your bosses know that a huge roster of social pages doesn't equal an effective campaign. :)

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