The terrible truth about social media…

“You’ve gotta be doing this…” has been the buzz for the last few years. I’ve lost track of how many self-proclaimed social media experts have come along (and more than a few have gone away!), harping on how this is the next big thing, the future, and so on.  “You’ve gotta be doing it…” They’d say. “You’ve just gotta!”

For the longest time, they added that one of the reasons you’ve “gotta be doing it” was because it was the best FREE way to get your brand some attention. It was never “free,” my thumb-jabbering expert friends. If somebody had to invest time in managing the campaign, that disconnects with any business definition of “free” I ever heard of. Now they are saying, “But if you really want the best exposure, you’re going to have to spend some money…” And they get all serious and they furrow their techo-savvy brows as they deliver the line, then pause for dramatic effect.

Here’s what I think. These are great tools and are arguably essential component parts of an overall strategy, but they’re just that: Tools and components. They are tactics, arguably very useful tactics, but if they’re not attached to an overall, meaningful strategy, don’t bother.

Marketing is about serving the customer and giving them value. Anything that helps build that relationship and delivers value is a good investment and an essential element in the growth of that relationship. Anything that doesn’t is a foolish (and expensive) waste of your time and and offensive waste of you customers’ precious time.

Facebook and Twitter are great media for communicating with customers, but my prediction is that the landscape may get pretty cluttered before too long, if we’re not already there.

I’m reminded of what Warren Buffett said hurt the newspaper business so badly. He said the customer has millions of choices from which to get information, but only 24 hours in a day and two eyeballs with which to consume it. Think about your own digital activity…are you really able to find the time to do all you want to online?  Even with that smartphone that accompanies you everywhere? Isn’t it likely the same customers you’re trying to reach have the same frustrations? And they should give you a piece of their scarce, irreplaceable time because…?

This is part of the reason why the social media “experts” are now saying you’ve got to buy your way in front of your audience. And though buying your way in front of them may help you get in front of them, unless there is real, genuine VALUE in it for them, you’re not going to keep their attention. And what’s the net result of that going to be? Back to that “offensive waste of their time” grumble I used a few paragraphs ago.

So what’s the answer? For starters, we need to be very honest when looking at what we’re really getting with our digital efforts. As I mentioned earlier, if we know they’re helping build the value relationship with our customers, then they’re a very worthwhile investment that should be made because they are useful strategies and tactics in achieving results.

The terrible truth is, if social media is something that gives your customers value, then yes, you’ve “Gotta be doing this…” And you should be doing it because it’ll ultimately give you a return on your investment.

If not, then taking a wait-and-see attitude rather than just running out and “doing some social media” may be in order. To quote from The Richest Man in Babylon, “Better a little caution than a great regret.”

“Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met. Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life”. – Unknown