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«Return to Blog List The Surest (and most common) Way for Companies to Shackle Their Social Media Efforts

More and more companies seem to be getting the message: social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) presents great opportunities for making connections with their customers and would-be customers. And yet, many of them get it wrong, mostly because they fail to grasp that social media is not just another variation on broadcast media.

There is a scene in Cool Hand Luke, in which the warden (Strother Martin) says to Paul Newman’s character, Luke: "You ain’t gonna need no third set [of shackles], ’cause you’re gonna get your mind right. And I mean RIGHT." That’s what needs to happen with corporate marketing managers and small business owners before they venture into social media: they need to get their minds right.

Here’s an all-too-common scenario:

  1. Marketing executive, experienced in managing marketing campaigns, ad campaigns, and PR campaigns, decides to "get into social media."
  2. She has her ad agency create a blog and set up a Facebook fanpage. She gets her PR group to develop some social media-flavored promotional and marketing messages.
  3. She assigns some junior staffers to create social media content using the messages: blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets, etc. All of this content has the hollow, promotional, not-fully-human, fingernails-on-chalkboard sound of corporate messages delivered out of context.
  4. After several unfruitful months trying to make her messages "go viral," the marketing executive believes there is no ROI for social media. She tried it, and it doesn’t work. And she’s right. Her old-school, promotional, broadcast media approach to social media is guaranteed to fail. Every. Single. Time.

What marketing people and business owners need to understand is that creating an effective social media presence is like joining a conversation. Conversations happen between people who listen and respond to one another; they are not a series of carefully polished and self-interested messages. These kinds of conversations, based on listening and responding, generally lead to relationships, because we all value someone who listens to us.

Think of it this way:

How would you react if you were in a conversation with another person about how to barbecue spare ribs, and someone walked up to butt into the conversation with "I know you’re interested in spare ribs! This week only, I’m offering customers 20% off on all spare ribs, limit 5 lbs. per customer, offer void in combination with all other promotions." If you’re like most of us, you’d ignore that person in the hope that he would go away. If he persisted in pressing his own interests without making an honest attempt to form a relationship with you, eventually you’d probably excuse yourself. If you’re more direct, you might let him know that he’s interrupting a private conversation in which he is not welcome.

On the other hand, what if he walked up and hovered near you and the person you were talking with, listening intently for a few minutes before asking, "Excuse me, but how do you make sure your ribs stay juicy? Mine are often dry."? Most people would welcome him into the conversation, and within a relatively short period of time, would welcome any information of value that he brought to it (assuming he continued to listen and respond appropriately in your conversation).

You gotta get your mind right. And I mean RIGHT. Then start blogging and setting up Facebook fanpages.

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