JKinslow's blog

Using social media: how will you be human?

Posted on: October 31, 2009

Notice the question is not: how will you appear to be human?

Success with social media marketing is based on authenticity, transparency and relationship building. It is virtual dialogue between businesses and consumers, and can be mutually beneficial. However, companies often lose sight of this concept when deciding how to implement a social media marketing strategy.

QuestionMark

What is social media marketing?
Before knowing what it is, it’s important to understand what it isn’t. It’s not direct advertising of products or services. It’s not a public relations campaign. It is inbound marketing that creates buzz by replicating messages through viral word of mouth. It is a tool that allows fans of a brand or company to promote it themselves through multiple social media venues. It is conversation, not fully controlled by a company, which provides an opportunity for companies to engage with their customers to improve products and customer service. Social media marketing is like a virtual cocktail party. If you spend all your time talking about what your company sells, your guests will find the nearest exit and head to a better party down the street.

How will you be human?
In large part, your answer to this question may depend upon whether you decide to hire an outside agency to implement your day-to-day social media interactions or conduct an in-house strategy yourself.

Which is better — hiring an agency or implementing an in-house strategy? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There are pros and cons to both. I decided to ask a few of my LinkedIn® colleagues to weigh in on the issue to help me decide how best to advise my clients. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “Social media means you need to be conversant with your customers, and so just like you don’t hire an outside agency to speak to your clients at your sell-point, you should not leave this important channel to an external company.”
  • “Outsourcing is a vital tool in all business operations. Quinn, a management scholar says for an organization to operate effectively and efficiently, it has to focus on its core activity and outsource the secondary levels. Hiring of outsiders to run the activity of a company will increase its relationship with its customers.”
  • “I believe that agencies can do it, but from from an architectual and initiary point of view. From there on indeed, the company itself needs to fuel its communication towards its target groups.” 
  • “You can’t farm-out or sub-out interactivity; I think it defeats the purpose. It’s like having my neighbor blog about what’s going on in my home, it’s not a true account or authentic. If you don’t have the money or time to do it in-house then wait until you do. The goal of social media is to be genuine, not appear genuine.”

social-media-waste-of-time

Here are 5 things to consider to help you decide what’s right for you:

  1. What is your company’s goal regarding social media marketing?
  2. Are you willing to commit time and resources to learning the tools yourself?
  3. Can you afford to hire an outside agency to sustain your online presence indefinitely?
  4. Do you feel using an agency to build your customer relationships undermines social media’s premise of authenticity and transparency?
  5. Do you feel social media is like other types of marketing and is better implemented by the “experts?”

What is my recommendation?
The answer I rated as best was from Millo Avissar and jives most closely with my own thoughts:

“A good consultant is the one who solves a problem and then ends his job asap. A client who demands you to “do the job” for him, will not stay a happy client after paying you for a long time. Perhaps you will find a way, where you will bring your added-value to your clients by working together with them to:

  1. Build the best strategy suited for their business;
  2. Train their people to be able to play this game;
  3. Define measurements for the management.”

I don’t see a resemblance between social media and outbound marketing practices of the past. Social media marketing engages business and customers in conversation like never before and should be viewed in a different way altogether. It is not a fad, and will be with us for the long haul. Therefore, empowering small business owners with the knowledge and the tools available upon which they can build sits best with me, and with my clients.

What works best for you? How will you be human? Do you think hiring an outside agency to maintain your company’s online presence makes any difference to your answer?

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