Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How do you define social media? And why it matters

I have a bee in my bonnet. Everyone talks about social media as if it is the same thing.

But what does it mean to you?

Is it managing the distribution of content on various channels, or is it community management, navigating an ongoing dialogue with your brand's customers, good, bad and ugly?

It seems to me everyone in a comms facing role now 'does' a bit of social media.

Not in a personal sense, that's a given. Even my mum sends me What's App messages in preference to texts. Skype is her preferred way of staying in touch with her grandkids.

But here's the thing. How often do people in the same organisation or company sit down and agree what the hell it is they are all doing on social media, and why?

I read two things recently that helped in my mind at least make the distinction between deploying content via social channels broadcast fashion, and building a community of engaged customers with whom you have an ongoing conversation.

The latter in my opinion requires a grounding in Public Relations. Or at least a grasp of communication that gives you the ability to flex your style, spot the nuances in conversational language, sniff out sarcasm, plus have the nimbleness to react to opportunities in the moment, and the common sense to shut up and not get drawn into every debate.

Marketers by contrast in my experience often naively follow the buzz of the day, or resort to creating content that mimics the kind of things they see working on any particular social channel. Cat memes on Instagram or quirky videos on YouTube. But to what end? Reach? Engagement? To win an award?

It annoys me when the two very different disciplines are muddled.

Christina Miller a senior channel manager at VML, a global marketing agency, recently wrote:

'Content is king, but content can’t talk back. When someone complains in the comments about a piece of content, community management is there with the antidote. When someone wants more information about a product, community management is there to answer. When someone professes his or her love for your brand, community management is there to thank them and amplify the sentiment.

'Not only is pushing out content without a solid community management strategy like sending an infantry into the fray without air support, it’s also a missed opportunity to “seal the deal.” '

I wrote about her piece previously. And couldn't agree more with her sentiment.

The second piece I read the other day highlighted seven key trends for 2016 (via AnalogFolk).

The first of which is 'renewed social discovery'.

'We’ve gone full circle. When brands first arrived on Facebook and organic reach was high, we spent a huge amount of time and effort on community engagement and interaction. However, as paid media options have grown, and organic reach has shrunk, we’re at risk of only viewing social as a way to pump out content as content.

'With more and more services being delivered through digital, rather than face to face, brands need to work even harder to maintain their humanity. From training customer service teams to being more proactive and helpful, to investing in chat bots that allow customers to easily get their questions answered. 2016 will see brands not just use social, but behave more socially.'

If I'm honest I'm not sure 2016 will see many more brands behave more socially, but those that do are on the road to success.

Those who continue to misuse social channels simply for broadcast purposes risk having a car crash.

And unfortunately most won't even know what hit them.

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  1. Great blog. The sentiment is spot on. Good communication to start with but the very best must have the ongoing dialogue. I find it really interesting when I do comment on something a company puts out and then get dead silence. Any goodwill generated from the original communication is severely diluted.

    1. Absolutely. Wasted opportunity to build a relationship in what is becoming an increasingly transactional world.

    2. Absolutely. Wasted opportunity to build a relationship in what is becoming an increasingly transactional world.

  2. Where's the 'like' button on this blog? :-)

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