By Adam Fraser
I’ve heard it a number of times.
You know the elevator pitch you have to give when you have 30 seconds to explain “what your new business is all about”.
I mention social media strategy and social media technology and people immediately jump to the conclusion that “only B2C companies would find value in that”. Better dust off those proposals for Coke, Unilever and Woolworths or it could be a dry summer.
So in essence people jump to two headline conclusions:
- social media’s only value is in marketing and directly driving sales (the “broadcast fallacy”) – i.e. it is purely an advertising mechanism, a channel to blast out your message
- social media is thus only of value to companies targeting a mass consumer base (the “you need a Facebook page” strategy)
Social media is a communication medium. A platform. So is a telephone system. Historically businesses may have used a phone system for many operational purposes including:
- cold calling customers and trying to sell stuff
- taking inbound enquiries from customers wishing to do business with you
- managing customer service issues
- listening to feedback
- receiving complaints
- asking for input on new products
- dealing with queries from job applicants
- performing market research
- internal collaboration
We need to separate the medium or platform from the business use for which that platform is used. An ineffective mechanic should not blame his tools. Inappropriate use of telephone “technology” is not the fault of the medium. The phone system is just there, open for use as a means of 2 way communication. Good use and bad use.
Social media platforms and technology can also be used for many many purposes within a business. Yes sales and marketing are in there (although stand alone hard sales messages go down particularly badly on social) but so are all the other items on the list above, plus others. Many use cases relate to business processes unrelated to traditional sales and marketing.
Social media is not and has never been a reach and frequency broadcast channel.
Think of social as the modern form of the telephone with much better functionality. As with a telephone you can use it to shout your brand message, talk about yourself and block your ears. Based on the nuances of this platform, you will be more effective if you use it primarily as a way to listen to your customers, and also a mechanism to answer their questions and communicate with them about whatever topic they wish at a time and place of their choosing.
Social is not TV, Radio or Print. We need to stop treating it this way. Its two way and transparent nature was a game changer. It is a platform which works best as a high engagement 1:1 communication channel. At its core it is a medium of connection.
Businesses struggle with this for many reasons not the least being the inherent and very real difficulty of scaling effective execution of 1:1 communications. But also because they desperately want it to simply be another channel to blast out their own messages. Much easier to apply existing old school marketing activities and thinking to a new technology. Ceding control of your brand to what consumers say about you rather than what you want them to think is indeed a scary prospect.
Its always been this way – the first ever TV adverts were radio ads read out on TV. Go figure. The wrong use of a new media technology.
Inappropriate use of a platform does not render the platform itself as flawed. We should blame the orchestra conductor not the baton he uses badly. The wizard not the wand.