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Social Media: It’s Not All About You…

Takeaways from the Awareness Exploring Social Media Summit

Takeaways from the Awareness Exploring Social Media Summit

Here’s the thing – companies are still really confused about how to use or why they should use social media. Who can blame them? It can get complicated pretty fast with the number of tools and techniques floating around out there. And then there’s that little thing called ROI.

Prior to beginning my career in PR with Text 100, I had the opportunity to work in the marketing department for a well-known Fortune 500 tech company – and social media was always the huge question mark that my colleagues in the marketing department couldn’t seem to wrap their arms around. The first question they would ask? “Well, what’s the ROI?” Since they couldn’t exactly measure the return, and it was so outside the conventional model, they abandoned the thought. They just didn’t see the value in the investment of time or budget. Sound familiar to you? If I had a penny for every time that a C-level business executive asked me what the ROI is of social media, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post.

Several presenters addressed this very issue – citing some compelling examples of what can happen when your company doesn’t have a solid social media strategy in place. But it was Jason Falls, co-author of “No Bullshit Social Media,” (who should also seriously consider a career as a stand-up comic if you couldn’t already tell from the title of his book), who finally hit the nail on the head with the ROI issue. How many traditional marketing/PR business drivers actually have a tangible monetary result? Instead of asking – “What’s the ROI here,” Falls suggests a better, less-limiting question may be, “What do I get in return?” The answer: Higher search engine results, new product ideas and customer satisfaction scores, to name a few. An answer, by the way, that has been proven over and over by the successes of companies such as Walmart, Microsoft and Disney.

With the ever-present ROI question/hurdle out of the way (thanks, Jason), another recurring theme addressed in almost every presentation during the conference was creating compelling and useful social content – a linchpin in creating true social engagement and attracting new followers. Two of my favorite presentations that discussed this subject were, “Applying Content Creatively,” given by C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley and “Make Yourself Useful,” given by Laura Fitton.

Applying Content Creatively

As a creator of content (which is probably one of my favorite parts of my job), I find that sometimes, things can go a little stale in the ol’ noggin – which is why I thought C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley’s presentation was particularly useful (by the way, if you are interested, they also wrote a book – Content Rules, which I plan on picking up soon). Creating interesting, engaging content can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of the same materials, topics and themes.

Chapman and Handley suggested a number of steps and techniques to produce compelling content which include:

  • Embrace your role as the publisher – You have to think about how you’re going to integrate content with everything else you’re doing. Publishers put their audience before anything else – you want to create content that will meet the needs of the audience.
  • Know your audience and speak their language – Insight into who your audience is and what they’re receptive to will inspire originality. Make sure you’re speaking their language – companies are not the best at describing things in the words of their customers. Speak in their language, and be human about it.
  • Share or solve, don’t shill– Share resources with customers and solve problems for them don’t just talk about yourself.
  • Reimagine, don’t recycle – Recycling content is a common practice in marketing and public relations. We want to get the most mileage out of collateral that we already have. But as Handley and Chapman point out, you need to think about content as a piece of a larger whole. Think through your content and see how you can reimagine it into something new and compelling.

Making Yourself Useful

Perhaps my most favorite presentation of the day was from Laura Fitton, and addressed a subject that  I don’t think gets enough attention. Fitton said it best when she stated, “The balance of power has shifted. The mere mortal now has power. It’s not about you anymore; instead, it’s about the value you provide.”

She’s 100 percent right. The web has shifted. Conversations are no longer one-sided and it’s not enough for companies to simply push their messages out to the masses anymore. We tend to forget that there are actual people on the other side of those blog comments, Twitter handles and Foursquare check-ins.

As organizations, we need to recognize the individual people that exist behind the handles and get to know them in order to understand what they need from us. The principle may sound simple enough, but it’s one that we, as companies and representatives to companies, can easily displace in the mix of meeting sales goals and objectives to drive results around specific products or initiatives that we care about.

In summary, my key takeaways from the day are:

  • We as marketers and public relations professionals need to be useful to our customers and care – passionately – about things other than ourselves.
  • We need to produce engaging content that our audience cares about and will share with others.
  • Don’t listen to ‘social media purists’ – no technique is right or wrong, it’s about what works best for you and your audience.
  • Bottom line: We need to approach social media in a human way.

What do you see as your biggest social media hurdle? What is your biggest success? Let us know in the comments!


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