The following is a guest blog post from Mike Klein. Mike is an online communications strategist for the University of Saskatchewan. He’s an avid reader and he loves to write about marketing strategy on his blog: http://www.michaelklein.ca
8 Rules to Survive Social Media Adolescence
Many people struggle with how to add social media to their marketing mix. They aren’t sure of which tools they should use. And, more importantly they struggle with how to behave in this new space.
You can see how they are struggling in the way they annoyingly blast out their promotions over Twitter. You can see how they struggle with their new (empty) Facebook page filled with selfish posts. You notice how they sit befuddled as to why nobody watched their annoying corporate Youtube video.
But, who can blame them?
The web has only been publicly available for 18 years. And, ‘social’ has only been part of the lexicon for the last six. We are infants in this new world and we are all trying to figure it out. It’s inevitable that we will make mistakes as it’s part of the process of trial-and-error.
However, just because social media is new to all of us doesn’t mean it’s totally forgiving. Online days are a little like dog years (One day equals seven years). A lot can, and does, happen everyday. It’s a rapidly evolving system that is quickly becoming more sophisticated by the second. New tools and techniques emerge constantly and it’s tiring just to try to keep up.
The good news is that although the tools are important to learn, the more important lessons are learning how to behave. Provided below are eight rules to get you through your digital marketing adolescence.
1. Be brave
It takes bravery to embrace social media. The tools are often unproven and you’ll need to open yourself (or your company) up to public feedback. This can be a scary proposition. The good news is that no toddler ever died from eating a mouthful of dirt or two and you won’t die if you experiment a little. Instead of waiting three years to see if ‘the research’ says Twitter is going to work for you, why not dive in and see what happens? If you’re afraid of what people are going to say about your company you can rest assured they are already saying it anyway.
2. Be real
Don’t be a corporate drone. Be yourself and allow your employees to do the same. People converse with other people; not corporations. Keep it real and people will be real with you. When people realize that there is a real person on the other end of the line it changes their behavior.
And, for the love of God please don’t setup a ‘fake persona’. This is just lame. Sooner or later you’ll get caught and you’ll look like the toddler with the droopy pants.
3. Be realistic
Social media is not a panacea. You won’t solve all of your ails by having a Twitter account. If your product sucks or your customer service is poor, then social media is only going to amplify those issues. So be realistic about your expectations and fix those other issues first. You need to learn to crawl before you can run.
4. Be patient
Despite popular belief social media is not free or instant. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it work. Let me repeat, it takes a lot of time and effort to make it work. Don’t expect your campaign to suddenly ‘go viral’ and solve all of your marketing problems. The Mentos/Diet Coke video or the Old Spice campaign are the exception, not the norm. You need to focus on the slow drip and build advocacy one customer at a time. Asking ‘how much farther’ never shortens the trip.
5. Be generous
Call them ‘small town rules’ if you will, but those who succeed in social media make friends by being generous. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your posts. Be generous with your connections. Help people and they will help you. Be the kid who is always bringing cookies to school instead of the guy who eats everything and never says thank you.
6. Be accountable
Social media is like HDTV for a talk show host; it makes your blemishes clearly visible for everyone to see. Instead of trying to hide your dirty laundry, be accountable for your mistakes. Nobody is perfect and we can all accept that fact. Try to seem perfect, or worse yet try to pull a fast one, and you’ll get called on it every time. Don’t be the kid pointing the finger when you’re asked, ‘who stole the cookie’.
7. Be relevant
There are just too many other great things we can spend time on over reading an irrelevant post or watching a pointless video. Content is expanding at an exponential rate, yet the time we have in a day is remaining constant. Social media is the ultimate milk separator and only the cream rises to the top. If you’re the kid that constantly ‘cries wolf’ then expect nobody will listen to you when you finally have something worthy to say.
8. Be social
This may seem obvious. But, social media is about being social. It’s about connecting with people and engaging on a deeper level. It’s about making friends and working together. You need to learn how to play in the sandbox if you want to succeed. If you’re a loner you may want to consider just sticking to advertising.
Can’t remember all of these rules? Hire Harley. He’ll keep you on the straight and narrow and ensure you make it to your social media graduation.
Editor’s Note: Mike Klein and I collaborated on a couple digital marketing workshops in May 2010 for Edwards School of Business, Executive Training. Mike is an excellent presenter and is available for speaking engagements – You can learn more by visiting his website at http://www.michaelklein.ca