I had a few conversations this week that caused me to realize that as much as social media has evolved, there still remains mass amounts of confusion around the topic of social media. Given the prolific amounts of misinformation in circulation, I thought it worthwhile to repost this piece. If you find all the noise around social media to be confusing, rest assured that you’re not alone. If you’re among the group of active users who no longer find it confusing, but still haven’t hit your stride, you’re also in good company. Blogging since 2002, being actively involved in digital marketing since the early 90’s, and being online since the days of the ARPANET I have a bit of history with most things digital. What’s interesting to me is that with every major advancement in the web comes a mixed bag of apathy, over exuberance, confusion, chicanery and even outright skulduggery that makes life much more complicated than it needs to be. In today’s post I’ll bust a few myths, reveal an evil secret or two, and share with you what you need to know in order to be successful with social media…
Understanding the Context
Let me cut right to the chase – business is fluid. Successful businesses adapt to market innovations and thrive, while those that fail to make iterative leaps fall by the wayside. With each major advancement in technology, communications, or business practice we find ourselves yet again at this all too familiar precipice. If you adapted to desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet, then I suggest you need to view social media as the next progression on the continuim of advancement. When markets make a major move, you either move with them or get run over by them. As a leader how can you make good decisions, set the vision and model behavior for something you don’t understand or participate in?
What the Soothsayers Want You to Believe
Have you ever noticed that profiteers seem to congregate around the complex, or at least what they can alter to appear as complex? Anytime new advances can be spun into something bewildering or beguiling there are fortunes to be won and lost. Regrettably, there seem to be legions of social media “experts” who take great delight in unnecessarily complicating something that is really not complex at all. Allow me to let you in on an evil little secret – social media is really quite simple.
While I’m not going to deny that social media brings with it new tools, platforms and communication channels, I vehemently object to the premise that you need to morph into an uber geek or communications savant to learn to use them and to reap their many benefits. Spare me the complex charts & diagrams, and the trite commentary from the latest guru. What’s needed is less smoke and mirrors and more common sense. As you’ll see below, social media is nothing more than leveraging technology and resources to communicate with meaningful constituencies in meaningful ways – How could that possibly be a bad thing?
The Evil Secret Revealed
The simple reality is that social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science. Let me make this as simple as I can…social media simply provides you with tools and channels that allow you to extend your reach and better engage those with whom you wish to communicate. What’s so complicated and confusing about tools that put you right where you’ve always wanted to be, and perhaps more importantly, right where you need to be?
Forget all the buzzwords and acronyms, social media is about meeting your constituencies where they are – in a setting of their choosing, and communicating with them on their terms. Social Media affords you an exceptional opportunity to listen, gather intelligence, build trust, engender confidence and credibility, publish valuable content and have meaningful dialog in ways that were once thought to be impossible. Social Media doesn’t make things more complex, rather it reduces things down to the ultimate level of simplicity. It’s really this simple…if it’s not a priority for you to efficiently and effectively engage with your stakeholders, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.
The Key to Success
Success or failure in social media is nothing more than making a simple set of good choices. You must choose to get off the sideline and into the game, then you must choose to endure the learning curve, and finally you must choose to deploy the needed resources to be successful. Let me be very clear here – as the CEO or entrepreneur, YOU and not your legal counsel, marketing director, ad agency or PR firm must make this choice. Don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded by conventional thinking, flimsy logic or uninformed opinions.
If you believe the hype, social media will immediately solve all your problems and require no time, energy or effort on your part. I’m always amazed at those who think all they have to do is launch a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, put up a Twitter page and open a Facebook account and all their business problems will be solved. If you buy into this line of thinking my guess is that it won’t be the first time you’ve fallen prey to a failed initiative around the latest trend.
I always love the excuse “I don’t have time for social media.” Really? What are you so busy doing that you don’t have time to build better relationships with precisely those individuals and groups who can help you achieve your goals and objectives? Social Media is no different than anything else in life in that you get out of it what you put into it. No effort yields no results, part-time efforts yield part-time results, and exceptional efforts lead to exceptional results.
Yes – social media will require an investment of time and resources. That said, prudent investments into social media serve as a force multiplier catalyzing both leverage and velocity simply not available via other mediums, platforms and channels. My advice is simple…stop rationalizing and justifying doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, stop whining & complaining and get in the game – do the right thing.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions – please share your insights in the comments section below.