Facebook is a website, not a social-media marketing strategy!

I love it when a client gets really excited about something. (Especially when it is about one of my ideas.) A close second to that is when they get excited about taking a risk and trying something new with a campaign.

Take the social web for example. There are some clients and businesses that will take that great leap of faith and embrace social media. When done right, they truly benefit from it.

A great example of this is IBM who asked their employees to blog about their passions for technology, the IT industry, their personal interests, and the company’s products. IBM then built a website around this which they call “A menu of expertise and insight from a passionate crowd

ibmers2

As a result, IBM gained some real credibility by demonstrating that they are transparent and open. They allow their staff to have their own opinions rather than expecting they will tow the company line. I think it also shows that IBM listen to customers (and staff) and embrace new ideas. A great marketing initiative hands-down!

At the other end of the spectrum are those businesses who have drafted and published strict (anti-)social-media policies. This usually comes about from an internal legal boffin worried about communication from the company becoming publicly available, without passing his or her desk for approval. Whether they do this for the good of the company, or for justifying their own self importance, I will leave it for you to decide.

These (anti-social-media) businesses attract marketing people who work well within these confines. To their credit, they sometimes also produce great campaigns, albeit using traditional media. However, they are usually not receptive to brilliant new ideas, or experimenting with new technologies and tools to help them achieve their marketing objectives. After all, corporate policy dictates that blogs are banned,  Facebook is blocked at the firewall, and Twitter is something that geeks do to pretend they are cool.

They prefer to take the “safe” road. Any other option for them is unknown and therefore a very scary prospect.

What is even more scary than the unknown, is when an organisation puts a marketing manger in chargewho thinks they know everything – but they don’t. “Make sure you include Facebook in this campaign” is often their most loved phrase. They are not exactly sure what purpose Facebook will serve to meet the campaign objectives. They just think that they must be there. If you peered into the mind of these marketers you would see the following thoughts:

“I will not be a good marketer if I forget Facebook”

“It won’t not a true integrated campaign without Facebook”

“No awards at Cannes if we don’t use Facebook in this campaign!”

This is the worst client to have. They just don’t get it.

Firstly, Facebook is a website, not a social-media marketing strategy. Just because Facebook gets a lot of press, and has a large user base, that doesn’t mean it is the right option for your brand.

Facebook is just one website. Online social media is diverse and spans a number of different tools, each with their own purpose, and more importantly, their own niche audience. Some of these audiences are relevant to your business, others are not. Facebook may not be right for this campaign. A blog may do a better job and getting customers onside, or perhaps a photo-sharing application, pod-cast, mash-up, the point is: Facebook is not the be all and end all of online social-media!

Secondly, pushing your brand into the land of the social web means that you are also opening up a conversation with the online community. This is different to other traditional marketing tactics where the “conversation” flows in only one direction. i.e  “I am a brand – hear me roar!”.  With the social web, customers want to be a part of the conversation, rather than being shouted at. They may love your product, or want to criticise your product. In the online social world it doesn’t matter if the feedback is good or bad. What is important is that people have the opportunity to say how they feel. What is also vital is that the company is listening and responding directly to this feedback, and actively participating in the conversation.

If your organisation is not ready to respond to customers in this way, then your entry into Facebook (or any other online social medium) is doomed for failure.

Finally, the marketer must ask the question –

How does using Facebook in this campaign add value to the customer or audience?

With online social media, more than any other form of marketing, this is the most important question. Your marketing message must be relevant to the audience. The audience must find your message interesting enough to grab their attention, useful to them, or at the very least – entertaining in some way. If your brand is going to enter their online social world, and be accepted there, then you must provide a benefit. If not, then you risk a backlash from the online community that could be much more damaging to your brand.

So if you have read this far then you are probably wondering where I am going with all this?

Well as I said at the start, “I love when a client gets excited about taking a risk and trying something new with a campaign”. If you are a marketing manager thinking about experimenting with social media, then “hurrah! ” for you. You are the dream client. Please keep embracing new ideas, challenge your agencies, experiment with new tools, and remain realistic about your campaigns.

If you just want to put your next campaign on “Facebook” but not really sure why, then don’t waste your time and hire a decent person that understands social media to help you develop a proper social-media strategy that has a better chance of being a success.

If you don’t beleive online social media can benefit your organisation or brand then fair-enough….you’ll come ’round eventually.

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