As someone who consults and speaks on social media, I still get the newbie customer who wants me to “do” their social implementation for them. What does “doing” their social media mean? It’s means potentially representing every facet of their company with every potential new and current customer that are out there on the Social Web. Last I checked we were spending 22% of our Internet time in social media, so that’s a huge amount of influence that I could yield. Not to mention the fact that I can yield power controlling the brand image for a company, something they may have invested countless dollars in, and representing them in front of hundreds of millions of customers who can help spread whatever word I tell them. Definite ego trip. I could certainly make money from it. But it’s not the right thing to do, so I won’t do it. Here’s why:
First, let’s look at the problem of “doing” someone else’s social media from my perspective. This is a true story based on a phone call I recently received from a prospective customer: (Q is the customer, A is my response)
Q: I found your site on the Internet. Do you offer social media services?
A: Absolutely! How can I help you?
Q: We are looking for someone who can do our social media for us.
A: (pause) OK. What exactly does that entail from your perspective?
A: Well, I work with businesses on their social media strategy and teach them how to do it themselves and become self-sufficient in implementing it. However, depending on what you want to do, I may be able to refer you to someone who may be able to help you. May I ask you, what content are you looking to post?
Q: We are an XXX company, so we have photos and videos that we’d like you to post for us.
A: OK. So you send me content and I post, right?
Q: We would obviously want you to expand upon the content and post it effectively.
I think you see where this conversation leads. Early on in my social career, I created tweets and blogged for a certain company. They gave me no instructions except to simply create blog posts and tweets for them. There was no strategy nor real guidance – I was just supposed to “do” it. What the heck was I supposed to blog and tweet about? You see the picture? That gig, as you can imagine, did not last long! That’s why I am 1) passionate about educating businesses that they need to have a social media strategy in place, and 2) equally passionate about not doing other people’s social implementation (unless, of course, there is a long-term relationship in place where I have worked with them on a strategy and they are considering having me in an internal strategic advisory role to deeply educate their staff).
If I was to further expand upon this in more detail, here are the primary reasons why I won’t “do” your social media:
Social Media is a Commitment, not a Campaign
I cannot emphasize this enough, so apologies if you’re sick of seeing me write this, but it really does bear repeating. There are many who feel that they can simply “do” social media by using an “agency” and outsourcing “campaigns” to them. I know many talented and intelligent people who work at agencies and have had great successes implementing campaigns, and I have a great deal of respect for them. I have friends at PR firms who I highly value for their expertise. While campaigns for certain digital properties do require technological expertise and manpower, and PR campaigns would be served well using a communications pro who has both new media connections and understands how to effectively communicate with the public, social media requires someone who can represent your company and brand, not the message itself. Consumers who respond to your Facebook Page are not requesting a press interview: They have issues regarding your customer service, product feedback, potential interest in employment opportunities, sales inquiries, questions, opinions, advice, complaints…why would you want to have these messages, both outgoing and going, be filtered by a 3rd party? Social media requires a long-term commitment to your customers, both present and future. It’s not a campaign. So don’t treat your internal utilization of it as such.
I am NOT Your Brand
Needless to say, every company has their own unique branding, product mix, history, and legacy customers. You have your own view of the world. Without having worked at your company, absorbed your history and culture, received training in your products, developed relationships with your key staff, and actually had my own personal successes internally, how on earth could I ever responsibly represent your brand to the hundreds of millions of consumers in social media? Of course I couldn’t.
Do I Speak YOUR Language?
I compare my current work of consulting with companies on their social strategy to the work I did launching sales organizations from scratch for foreign companies in Asia. Each of my bosses had a similar complex problem: How to sell their product into a local market in Asia where they had no brand recognition, customer base, or presence at all. I could help them because I spoke Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, had experience working in similar industries, and had vast business experience knowing the ins and outs of selling into each culture. Similarly, I can “speak” the languages of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I certainly have a great deal of experience and expertise in doing it. I have a solid background of business successes. But I am not your employee. I may speak the language of social media, but it doesn’t mean that I can speak YOUR language.
There are many companies who will pay agencies or consultants to “do” their social media for them, and many businesses will happily take their money. Social implementation definitely doesn’t scale, so I can see the need for people to find ways of outsourcing this “work” to others. I also realize that many small business owners fear that social will take up all of their time, so maybe they feel comfortable in outsourcing it. And, like I said, despite the fact that they are 3rd parties, I have seen some agencies do some great work. (On a side note, when I asked one agency that I have a great deal of respect for why they will “do” social implementation on behalf of others, they answered, “I know…but it helps pay the bills.”)
I tell businesses, “If you don’t see the potential benefits of investing in social media, don’t invest in it.” If you do, invest in it the right way by using your own employees to deliver the message to the public. Have your social media strategist manage the agency that you may want to work with on a campaign for whatever reason and own the internal ROI of the project. The phenomenon of growth in online social networking websites is not going away, so stop treating it like it’s a nuisance and outsourcing 100% of it’s implementation. Instead, stop and realize the long-term benefits of directly engaging in social media.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think?