It’s 2014, Let’s Stop Talking About Social Media

by Mack Collier

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Happy New Year, y’all!  2014 begins my 10th year of being immersed in the world of social media.  I can remember when social media was simply blogs and MySpace.  Then Facebook and Twitter came along, and we all began to wonder when companies would begin to notice these amazing tools and what they could help them accomplish.

Finally, around 2008 0r 2009, companies start to pay attention to social media.  But in the five or so years since then, the conversation has largely remained focused on the tools themselves.  It’s long-overdue that we stop focusing on the tools and start focusing on understanding how and why people are using these tools.

Let’s stop focusing on social media and instead focus on how social media usage by our brand can relate to larger and far more valuable business objectives:

1 – Customer satisfaction

2 – Customer loyalty

3 – Sales

It’s time to elevate the conversation.  Actually it’s about 5 years past time to elevate the conversation.  We need to stop talking about the tools, and instead focus on the larger business goals that the tools help us reach.  For too long social media strategists/agencies and firms have been trying to sell companies on using social media with a tools-oriented argument.  Key executives that work within companies that approve marketing budgets don’t speak in terms of tools, they speak in terms of results.  A 15% increase in sales in Q3, a 10% reduction in product returns for the year or a 20% reduction in staff turnover.

When we change our conversation to stop focusing on the tools and instead focus on how the tools impact the bottom line, we earn the attention of companies.  It sends a completely mixed message to companies when we strategists say that companies need to invest in social media, but we talk about how that investment will lead to increased social media engagement, brand awareness, Likes and comments.  We tell companies that social media is important, then speak about that importance in metrics that are totally unimportant to the average company.  

So there’s no wonder they aren’t listening.  Neither are customers, because we are focused on ways to use social media to turn customers into digital billboards for our brands.

Stop the insanity!

If it’s 2014 and you are just now considering using social media to connect with your customers, I have good and bad news for you:

The bad news is: You’re way behind.

The good news is: Most companies that are using social media suck at it, so you can catch up quickly if you are smart.

It’s not about understanding the tools, it’s about understanding the people that use the tools.  That should be your focus in 2014.  Tools change but it’s always a good idea to understand who your customers are and how you can create value for them, regardless of the tools they (and you) use.

Pic via Flickr user DigitalLeica

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerome Pineau January 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Whenever you talk tools, platforms, or features — people yawn :)

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Kerry O'Shea Gorgone January 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm

This is the heart of the post, in my view:
“We tell companies that social media is important, then speak about that importance in metrics that are totally unimportant to the average company.”

Social media has value, but if you can’t demonstrate that value in a way that translates for executives (who often aren’t marketers), it’s useless. This is the same reason that people are able to pick up valuable antiques in thrift shops for $2: someone fails to recognize its value.

If you fail to communicate the value of social media to your executives, they’ll cut back or fail to support your efforts, and ultimately you’ll lose business, creating a windfall for the competition.

Another great post, Mack. Keep ‘em coming!

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Mack Collier January 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Thank you Kerry. Let’s be honest, it’s often difficult to draw a line from the tool to the bottom line. But I think it’s worth trying to find the connection and it’s a conversation that’s worth exploring and long overdue. The ‘gee whiz’ conversation around the tools was nice to have in 2007, but this is 2014. It’s time to move onward and upward.

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Kerry O'Shea Gorgone January 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Absolutely, it’s difficult, but it is possible, provided marketers do some planning in advance. Creating a different short URL for use on each specific social network is a pain, but it’s also the only way to see where leads come from because users will often cross-post and share. Basically, we have more options for attribution, but marketers need to be willing to use them.

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Ben Martin January 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Fab article thanks Mack

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Kevin Hillstrom January 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Good job!!

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Gary Arndt January 2, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Talking about social media is like talking about sex.

It achieves nothing and is vastly inferior to actually doing it.

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Dennis January 3, 2014 at 4:44 am

Mack, in the words of the Churchill ‘nodding dog’*, “Oh yes!”

*Sorry if that’s just a UK advert and doesn’t translate over there!

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Dennis McDonald January 10, 2014 at 6:07 am

Agreed. Problem is it’s easier to talk about tools than how benefits derive from using the tools to support some business objective. The tools are so easy to use now that anyone can do it.

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Jerome Pineau January 10, 2014 at 6:27 am

@Dennis, some tools are easy to use while other require a little more thought and configuration — there’s a wide range in the usability scale in my opinion.

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Evren Kiefer January 11, 2014 at 11:31 am

May project managers hear you! Unfortunately, if the discussion around CMSes are any indication, prospects aren’t great.

Tools and functionality remain the primary focus and managers scratch their heads trying to understand why adoption is low.

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