All you have to do is…

Social media is hard.

Unless you have money.

Heaven knows you don’t have to be remarkably intelligent, witty, or engaging to be successful.  Of course, these things help – and are likely a requirement if you intend to make any money at it – but mostly you have to be available and willing to work at it.

The back story: I buy the URL and set up this site after I was laid off from my last job.  I had time to burn and decided to jump in and play in this social media sandbox.  I didn’t expect much from it – just felt like it was a good time for me to fool around and learn about the environment.  Of course, I immediately start working a paying job and forget all about this little experiment.

Smash cut – six weeks later and I’m working with Delta Partners, a boutique Management Consulting firm that is well established here in Ottawa.  My first assignment – bring a social media strategy to our site.

Hey look at me everyone – I’m a Social Media Consultant!

But then you probably are too.  Seems most everyone who has a twitter account and knows that you capitalize the “i” in LinkedIn is.

And here it comes…

“All you have to do is…”

My colleague Peter Degosztinyi turned me on to this one, and he’s bang on.

All you have to do is: start a blog, start a twitter account, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and you are building your bench, be a thought leader, participate in the conversation, be a trust agent, have a corporate facebook page, build a listening post, track your KPI’s, and wait for the money to roll in.

Of course few will tell you how to execute on the tactics behind the overarching strategy or how much sleep you can expect to do without along the way.  Hey, don’t be a buzz kill – I’m evangilisin’ here.

the real experts tell us

The point to all this rambling: I attended the OCRI Zone5ive (how hard is that to type?) meeting today titled “Social Media Marketing Experts Reveal All”.  Naturally, as an expert, it was critical that I attend to reveal all of the mistakes that these misguided souls would try to sell.  Jokes aside, it was an excellent panel:

  • Michele Bedford Thistle :Enterprise Marketing Manager – Public Sector, Microsoft Canada
  • Erin Blaskie – @erinblaskie :Founder, Business Services, ETC
  • Scott Lake – @scottica :Serial Entrepreneur and Founder, Shopify and Swix

All three were far more articulate and intelligent than I could ever hope for.  They know their stuff and they were happy to share their experiences in using social media to build a successful business – for that I am grateful.

And to show my gratitude, I got to ask the last question of the day, “This is for all three of you: can you tell us how many hours per week you spend on this stuff?”  I had no fewer than six people tell me that I asked a great question.  Clearly this is an issue that people are wrestling with.

The answers:

Scott said, “I have found that the new smart phones really let me be productive when I’m away from the office.” I heard, “There are few moments in my day that I’m not thinking about, reading or creating tweets. I do it all the time.”

Michele said, “I don’t spend more than two hours per week on this.”  I heard, “I work for a gigantic corporation with cash and lots of resources.”

Erin said, “I’m on the Internet 14 hours per day.”  I heard, “I have never been on a run of 27 straight days of 3am feedings. I do it all the time.” (sidebar: this is about to change, congrats Erin!)

my spin

My takeaway after chatting with some other attendees: social media marketing is effective when it is done right.  But.  It is still marketing.  Unless you are a fully committed entrepreneur or are young with lots of creative energy and no serious commitments, you can expect to spend your marketing dollars on this activity.  It isn’t free – even if many of the tools are.  The resource commitment is real.  You want to participate in the conversation? It’s going to be time intensive.

And most people still prefer to be paid for their time.

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4 thoughts on “All you have to do is…

  1. Hi Geoff,

    Nice take on the discussion yesterday.

    I think that for the majority of people/brands/company social media shouldn’t be hard. Afterall, we are social beings and if you’re hiring bright, engaged and social people, all you have to do is give them the ability to do what they do on a daily basis offline, online.

    However, I also think that social media is what email marketing was 10 years ago -the bright shiny object that everyone wants. As such, the industry makes it sound much harder than it actually is so that they can charge higher prices for services around it. Plus, there is so much thought/information about it floating around, you are often paying somebody to dig through the pile and pull the good stuff for you and I guess there is some value there but it’s not really long term value. I’m not a social media marketing consultant but if I was, I’d give my clients a few good blog posts, books or podcasts to read and then have them get back to me if they think they need me to proceed with the engagement. I’d do it for free too.

    But the reason I think social media is hard for many companies is that what they do and who they are simply isn’t remarkable, fascinating or cool in any way. For these companies, social media is dangerous because then you’re going to expose all of that to the world. I have enormous respect MSFT, use their products and always have (except for my iPhone) and have even worked with them. But let’s be honest, they aren’t cool, fascinating or remarkable. To that end, I really enjoyed that Michele was on the panel yesterday because I think she brought a more realistic and conservative approach to social media that I think applies to a large number of companies with higher revenues than you tend to hear from in these discussions. It seems like the smartest thing MSFT is doing right now is understanding that for the most part, most of their brands aren’t cool and their products aren’t sexy and they are doing really well working with what they have.

    Does everyone need to be cool/fascinating or interesting? Read “Buy-ology” by Martin Lindstrom or “Fascinate” by Sally Hogshead and look around the marketplace these days and then you’ll get the answer to that question.

    In the end, I think that companies need be rethinking what they do, why they do it, who they are and how they do it BEFORE they start pumping money into a social media strategy. I think too many marketing departments get stuck thinking tactically instead of strategically because it’s simply easier to think about how I’m going to get there than why I even want to go in the first place. Make your company, your product and who you are something that stands out before you get into social media.

    Otherwise, it’s like trying to put perfume on a pig.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful input Danny.

      Who knew that my first ever comment would be more lucid, better structured, and more readable than my own content!

  2. Geoff, I think you have some really good points- it seems that the original flock to social media was due to the fact that the space was originally uncontested in terms of marketing presence. Fast forward to today, social media is a largely contested and crowded space, in fact, it seems that the marketing influx is actually killing several social media platforms. Twitter for one has been absolutely swamped with spam, so much so, that it lost the original purpose.

    Marketers are violating the cardinal rule of social media- always contribute something of real value to your audience. What most so called “experts” don’t realize is that talking about products, features and benefits does not constitute real value. I love this quote from David Meerman Scott and try to remember it at all times, “nobody cares about your brand or products (except for you)”

    Thanks for the post

    1. Great line – nobody cares about your brand or products. Words to live by.

      Isn’t it remarkable how fast the social media space has filled up? Two years ago no one had heard of twitter.

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