First of All is Social Media really “social”? Most of those on Facebook checking up on their friends now spend less face time with their actual friends than they used to. Probably, because they have less time after all the digital chit-chat. And most of those on Twitter are boring their followers with their inane and trivial blah-blah-blah. Or they are re-tweeting somebody else’s thoughts, actions, or links. And most of those following, like the bored stranger at a Christmas party, are feigning interest but ignoring all the chatter.
Where are we now?
There was a lot of fuss and bother last month about Naheed Nenshi’s election win to become Calgary’s new mayor, and the traditional media (read: “followers”) deemed the victory to be his use of Social Media. The reality was that those electronic tools helped to get his message out and discussed, but he won because it gave him the freedom to attend pretty well every summer Street Fair, as well as every Candidates Forum over election season. Reality check: it wasn’t about the Social Media but it’s about the FACE TIME!
Mayor Nenshi got elected by personally meeting with and interacting with thousands of voters, and engaging many younger citizens who would otherwise not have bothered to vote. He acted in a way we expect a politician to act once elected! And not cocooned away in city hall, like the prior mayor, “teleprompter” Dave Bronconier, who stepped outside only to issue his daily sound bite to media. (More on this… )
Now, from a business perspective there are some other observations. Twitter and Facebook don’t do anything new! Or they’re not doing anything that you shouldn’t be doing anyway, as a smart business person. You can accomplish the same things if you have an opt-in newsletter, if you post to your own blog, or if you answered corporate e-mails. The difference is doing it yourself takes a little bit more time (and maybe money) and on thee other side, you are building your own brand, not Facebook’s or Twitter’s.
Looking at websites and ads in various media these days reminds me of the early days of the Internet, when every website was plastered with logos for Netscape and Internet Explorer. We quickly realized the logos promoted their software, but didn’t add to website functionality (or branding). Soon, they were banished as unnecessary by smart website designers. Now, its déjà vu all over again!
When you create a Facebook fan page, and send your customers there, they are no longer “your customers” The content you post there gets traffic and “buzz” for Facebook. Now that Facebook has advertising, your competitors can hijack both your message and your customers. Something you wouldn’t let happen on your own website or blog! If you have a Twitter Page and post tweets regularly to your followers, who owns the followers? Are they your corporate intellectual property? Can you keep that list private? NOPE! Twitter owns that and has the benefit, and now that they too have advertising, your competitors can hijack your customers and followers there, too! Post your notices and updates on your website’s Home Page… this gives customers a reason to check back daily.
There was a lot of early-on fuss and hype about Twitter helping to build customer support & service. You can accomplish the same thing if you regularly read and respond to your e-mail or message traffic from your website’s Feedback page. Check it daily, hourly, or real-time… whatever is appropriate to keep really up-to-date. And don’t use an auto-responder with an inane message like “your e-mail will be passed on to a human in a business day or so”. That just screams “you are being ignored!” Actually read the e-mail, answer the question, fix the problem, and reply back right away. Always treat your online customers with the same respect and speed as you would those asking questions or those complaining in your store or your office! You don’t need Twitter to exercise good business Common Sense.
And if you answered a question twice, consider adding content to your website. That way, future emails on that topic can be shortened to a hello and thank you, with a pleasant link to the detailed information or explanation. Learn from Twitter: there’s elegance (and efficiency) in a short answer!
Another thing to remember, and what those “Social Media Experts” don’t tell you, is that Twitter and Facebook works best when you are communicate to your “followers” and “friends”. Preaching to the converted is easy! But if your business wants to grow, you need to find a way to reach many others outside your immediate circle. Consider other media, including traditional media, various online resources, and directories (If I may be self-serving for a second). Social Media is acting like the snake in Jungle Book, saying “Mowgli, look into my eyes,” serving to mesmerize before striking!
Moving Forward: Building YOUR Brand, YOUR Online Persona
What’s the take-away? Social Media is like a bicycle’s training wheels. Good to learn, but after a while, gets in the way, slows you down, and makes you look WAY un-cool. Once you get enough practice and confidence to do without, take the training wheels off! Learn the lessons from Faux-cial Media, and integrate them into your business strategy as a core competency. Stop out-sourcing when you realized that customer interaction is important. In-source it to build YOUR company and your brand. If you’re unsure of your technological prowess, keep up the Facebook and Twitter while your own technology develops.
At FoundLocally, we have an opt-in email newsletter, a blog,(http://blog.FoundLocally.com, on our own domain) and a Feedback form we have always monitored religiously. Our significant time and effort with Facebook, Twitter, and RSS we’ve seen mixed results. Yes, more people are accessing our information in more ways, and we are interacting with more reader, but others are earning ad revenues from our content and our postings (hey, that’s how WE earn our revenues!).
We’re taking back our content, and adding functionality that Facebook and Twitter provided. We’ve added news feeds to our http://TransCanadaHighway.com and our http://MovingInCanada.com home pages, so our websites are as current as our Facebook and Twitter. As well, we’re featuring context-sensitive content on many pages all over our site, which we used to post to our RSS feeds.
We hope these changes will help make our sites core to each individual’s personal processes: see what’s happening, see what’s new, and see where they can shop. We’re no longer a Faux-cial media “innocent” and we’re taking back our BRAND for our own benefit, and for that of our loyal supporters.