Is Social Media for You?

First of all, let me say that I'm very pleased to be teamed up with Chuck in launching Fresh Ground Communications, which we created to provide social media-savvy strategic marketing and PR services to businesses. We help both social media skeptics and enthusiasts keep their communications programs focused on creating and growing business opportunities, and I'm looking forward to many conversations about building relationships from the ground up with your key stakeholders and influencers.

I've had the great pleasure of being able to attend the Inbound Marketing Summit 2009 in Boston, held for the second year at Gillette Stadium (go Pats!). I went in to the event yesterday expecting the sessions to be all about measurement and ROI, which seems to be on everybody's mind lately when it comes to social media. I was disappointed at first -- I found a great deal of the typical PR and social media guru bashing, as well as the same old hollow enthusiasm for blind adoption of social media. But as the event progressed, there were glimpses of what I like to call social media responsibility.

Social Media Responsibility
If you're going to engage your audiences through social media, you need to do it responsibly. There are a few principles of social media responsibility that I'd like to share with you:

  1. Social media isn't for everyone, but it is probably right for you. I'll be the first one to admit that not everybody needs to be tweeting and checking Facebook every few minutes. But I encourage social media skeptics to pick a social platform and try it: engage its community in a discussion about social media. Some of the most effective and interesting users of social media are the very ones who were skeptical -- or are still skeptical -- of the very platforms they're using. There are a lot of social media enthusiasts who are getting sick of listening to the same old echo chamber messages, and who are looking for a fresh new perspective on things.
  2. Social media success is about more than just marketing. This was the whole idea when I launched my own blog at if you're looking at social media as a marketing activity, you're not just missing the big picture, you're putting your company at risk. Why? Speakers at #IMS09 gave several examples of the dangers of throwing marketing staffers on Twitter and other platforms, but not empowering them to actually solve problems. You need to tie in the product development and customer support teams at the very least, or you risk alienating your customer base.
  3. Social media is about change management. It's really about changing the way you do business. There are very few companies that can get away with the old school "we can control the message" communications model (Apple comes to mind). Integrating social media across the many customer touchpoints (not just the website and phone system, but every single employee of your company) requires a new way of thinking about your business.
  4. Social media success comes from the top-down and the bottom-up. A really enthusiastic CEO / CMO / marketing executive cannot lead an organization to social media success alone; conversely, really enthusiastic team members cannot create social media success without executive buy-in. You need both in order to enact the changes required for social media to help your company succeed.
  5. It's not about social media success for your business, it's about business success through social media. You just passed the 5,000 Twitter follower mark. Congratulations. But, what does that mean for your bottom line? Can you demonstrate that social media is leading to business growth? If not, why are you engaging in social media? Social media for social media's sake is a dead-end street.

Without an understanding of these principles, you are not tweeting or facebooking responsibly. I am very happy to see these concepts well-represented at the IMS conference. I'll share a few more thoughts with you coming out of IMS over the next few days.

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