[caption id="attachment_1027" align="alignright" width="124" caption="Julia K. Wakefield"][/caption]
by Julia K. Wakefield, Senior Account Executive
“This social media stuff is so hot right now. Let’s make a Facebook page and a Myspace. We’ll also do a Twitter and a Youtube. Obviously, LinkedIn and Flickr. While we’re at it, let’s get on that Foursquare thing. Are we on Yelp yet? Are we missing anything?”
Yes, you're missing the most important thing of all: an overarching social media strategy.
More and more, as businesses and marketers see the immense potential of social media, we’re seeing organizations resort to what we call a “GMO” method of using social media – “Get Me One,” regardless of the tactic's role in the business’ comprehensive marketing plan. I can’t emphasize this point enough: social media vehicles are tools in your toolbox. Just as you wouldn't use a screwdriver to hammer a nail into the wall, don’t use social media tactics if they don't fit into your marketing platform. Even at that, this fast-evolving method of communicating isn't for everyone.
Keep in mind that while some social media vehicles are simply irrelevant and ineffective for certain organizations (for instance, business-to-business companies won’t get much mileage out of Facebook), other are actually toxic.
For example, healthcare organizations must use Flickr with great caution or not at all. HIPPA regulations prevent sharing photos of patients without their express consent, and I imagine gathering those signatures will likely prove too burdensome. Further, for the organization’s online ambassadors on Yahoo Groups or Twitter, there’s a fine line between what counts as giving medical advice and what doesn’t.
Ditto for attorneys and giving legal advice over the Internet. Plus, as reported in the New York Times a week ago, Florida’s Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee now bars judges and lawyers from being Facebook “friends,” as it may create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Consider financial services organizations, including banks and wealth management advisors. Jeffrey Pilcher (TheFinancialBrand.com) posted an excellent overview of this topic on the ABA Banking Journal’s blog. Using Twitter as a customer service tool (as many, many organizations do these days) poses a potential landmine as it pertains to compromising privacy, threatening the security of personal information, and opening the door to identity theft. Plus, many clients, especially high-net-worth ones, prefer anonymity and privacy. Good luck convincing them to be fans of your Facebook page.
Besides the fact that not all social media tools are appropriate for all organizations, “GMOing” will spread you too thin. Always strive for quality over quantity. That is, rather than creating profiles all over the web and leaving them dormant, select a couple and plow your energy into them. Spend time on posting quality, relevant content on your Facebook fan page and engaging with your fans every day to build a community around your brand. Tweet regularly and seek out interesting figures to follow to get your industry intelligence and make more connections. Update your blog at least twice a week (if not more often) to keep readers interested and ensure you stay high up on search engine results.
Don’t let classic “GMO” thinking sabotage what can be an extremely effective social media effort. Choose your tactics carefully, and enjoy a strong return on your investment of time.
Which social media tools have been effective for your business or organization? Which have been ineffective - or dangerous?