“Social Media is Free!” No, It’s Not. Key Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Company

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

One of my biggest pet peeves is the notion that social media is free.

I mean, yes, okay, technically it is free.  It doesn’t cost a dime to create a Facebook page, nor sign-up for a Twitter account.  WordPress gave me this blog for free.  Review sites don’t charge to post content (typically), Foursquare doesn’t run my credit card when I check into a location (off-the-grid of course because I am ironically private when in the online social sphere).

In any presentation I give, I typically tend to show a video from an outside source about social media because  A. No one wants to hear me talk. B. Stats are boring.  C. A collection of outside data is best for a wonderful potpourri of credible sources helping you make your point.  D. The music is typically pretty cool.

One of my favorite videos I never show is “What the HELL is social media – in 2 minutes” by timetogetsocial.  I like it because I am partial to the style of lists (Reason #1, Reason #2,  etc.).  Granted it’s a little bit of a ripoff of Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution, published in July of 2009 and then refreshed in May of 2010, but what is original these days? Anyway, Qualman usually gets played because I love “Right Here Right Now” by Fatboy Slim (and more so because of the final “reason”, outlined below).

My favorite pieces from timetogetsocial:   (awesome conversation starters and continuers):

So this is pretty much the trifecta of successful business conversations: people talking about your brand and company, people buying your products and services, and the juice of the internet: porn.  Bam.

Perfect conversation pieces with a mildly entertaining soundtrack, why wouldn’t I use this gem in any regard when discussing the importance of social media?

Well, after the holy grail of business fodder (purchase decisions, brand advocates and pornography),  Reason #10 sucks.  And is untrue.  And ruins the other points because of it’s lack of explanation.

Saying that social media is free in itself is a truth.  Again, it doesn’t cost anything to enter these realms of conversation as you don’t write a check  to Google every month for your monthly search subscription.

In order to effectively enter the social space, you are going to be spending more than just time.  You need the appropriate pre-research to understand what it really is that you are doing.  There are free tools out there to help you do this.  But there are some highly sophisticated ones that are, in fact, better, and also cost money.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Really.  No free lunch.

Are you combatting negative perceptions?  Are you leveraging the positive momentum from your products and services because everyone is singing your praises online?  How are you marketing your initiatives?

Why on earth would Pepsi, after almost a quarter of a century of yearly ads, pull out of advertising for the Super Bowl in 2010?  Because instead of spending 2-3 million dollars on a 30 second spot, Pepsi allocated resources to social media campaigns.

CMO of Pepsi Cola North America, Lauren Hobart explained, “It’s a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn’t the right venue, because we’re really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers.”

Ok, so… if social media were free (and if the Super Bowl were the correct “launch plan”), Pepsi could have still continued their yearly Super Bowl advertising and complemented the efforts through social media.  Let’s pay for the 30 second spot and social is free, so we do both.  Well, instead they used resources for philanthropic causes fueled by the resources put into the social user-generated campaigns.

Conversations and stories are free.  So are most of the platforms and accompanying tools out there.  But, in order to be effective, there does need to be an investment outside of just time itself in order to align the efforts and maximize the return.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to know what they are doing.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to understand the long-term strategy and work with other individuals in order to make sense of short-term strategies and tactics.

In putting together the following questions to ask yourself before venturing into the world of social media, I kept the platforms neutral.  Although created with social in mind, they don’t necessarily correspond to this arena alone.

What’s Already There?

  • What is the general public saying about you?
  • What are your key stakeholders saying? (Employees, Customers, Prospects, Candidates)
  • What is being said about your competition?
  • How do these voices differ from your message?
  • How do these conversations interrupt your business goals?
  • How do these conversations complement your business goals?

Where Should I Be?

  • Who is my audience?
  • How does my audience perceive me?
  • Where is the most conversation occurring?
  • What platform do I need to tell my story?
  • Why am I even here?
  • What are my current marketing and communication goals?
  • How do these goals fit into any new conversations?

What Should it Look Like?

  • How does my message need to visually look?
  • How integrated does the message need to be with my current branding initiatives?
  • How do I change my current branding to support my message on this new platform?
  • How does my current design promote the behavior I am looking to create?

What Should I Say?

  • What behaviors am I trying to promote?
  • What action am I trying to drive?
  • Who is my primary audience? My secondary audience?
  • What types of content does my audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Should I Market This?

  • Who are my current stakeholders? How do they play into this?
  • Where is my desired audience?
  • What does my desired audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How can I better integrate this into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Do I Manage This?

  • Who can do this for me?
  • How do I respond?
  • What do I say?
  • Why am I saying this?

How Do I Measure Results?

  • What were the goals for this initiative? Both long-term (strategy & business objectives) and short-term (marketing campaigns)?
  • How have these goals changed?
  • Have we uncovered any new audience needs and behavior? How can we continue to promote this or change this?
  • How has each campaign affected strategic goals? How can we continue to improve this?
  • What new learnings have surfaced? How do these affect strategic goals?

The list is still a work in progress as I am sure there are things that I have not added.  What else would you suggest as a key consideration to companies entering a long-term journey into social media?

Advertisements