In case you don’t read left to right, I’ll outline it for you: the first word of “social media” is, in fact, social.
I’ve heard people describe social media as “in an awkward adolescence,” and that’s generally pretty true. Just like with teenagers, everyone is making assumptions about social all the time: “The business value is too hard to prove!” or “It strengthens real relationships … but maybe it doesn’t!” or “What we need are millennials running our social, because they get it!” or “Let’s track social engagement more than anything!”
Thing is, it’s predictable that this happened: you had a technology/feature come out of nowhere. A lot of people (potential consumers) got involved. Businesses knew they had to rush in. No one really knew the rules of the space or how to engage, so marketing experts (gag) started rushing in as well. They mostly peddle cookie-cutter solutions around social (because really, no one is a social media expert; you can’t be an expert in something that’s only been around 15 or so years, and you can’t be an expert in something that people use in 1,000 different ways), and businesses buy them, get disappointed with the results (“Social ain’t driving sales!!”), and then go chase some more nickels in the couch cushion of their industry. Welcome to marketing leadership in 2015, baby! Might be time for a game-changing shift.
But listen, this part is important. If you want to have any value around social, you gotta actually be social. To quote Neil Patel:
What is social media about, really? It’s about the social. But social with who? Your users. To be effective, you’ve got to understand who they are, what they want, and how to get it to them.
In one line, you have the entire essence of what people miss about social. They miss exactly that: the word social.
If all you do is go on there and tweet/share your own stuff, or sales/offers from your company, that’s not social. Would you have a real-life relationship with someone (friend, spouse, family member) and just keep up-selling them all the time? No. Because eventually they’d think you were a creep, always on the take, and ignore/divorce/cut you out of the will.
But yet, that’s what thousands of brands and people do on social media every hour. SELL SELL SELL and SELF-PROMOTE SELF-PROMOTE SELF-PROMOTE.
I don’t know what the word for that is (myopic? narcissistic?) but the word is not social.
So how are you doing “social media” if you’re not being social and interacting, communicating, responding, questioning, learning? (Which are elements of what “being social” is, in real life.) You’re not. If you’re just selling and promoting, asking for RTs and likes and all that … that’s not social. That’s just yelling from the rooftops looking for engagement. It’s the same thing as chasing “going viral.” That doesn’t matter at all. What matters is retention. Get fans, advocates, brand warriors, whatever. Get them and make ’em love you and keep ’em in the fold. That’s what every majorly successful singer of the last 50 years has done (Taylor Swift, anyone?) and that’s what you can do too, if you stop focusing on the short-term hits of “Oh, we got a bunch of shares!” and focused instead on the long play of being social and developing relationships.