Posted by: mandi bateson | April 9, 2009

4 things we can learn from social media

Social media has taught me many things. Like how most #blackouts in Australia are caused by #zombies. Or that sometimes it’s more amusing to watch a reaction to a clip instead of the clip itself. But more importantly it has taught me that no matter how technologically evolved we become, some things never change. Here are 4 truths that I believe social media has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt.  

It’s all about relationships

Sex might sell but don’t be fooled – most customers are looking for more than a one night stand. We’ve spent years introducing technology to cut out the middle man only to find that the customer still wants to talk about their feelings. Businesses who choose to nurture an ongoing relationship reap the benefits with higher $$ sales, repeat business and free advertising in the form of word of mouth. Too many businesses are content with just playing the numbers game, safe  in the knowledge that their flashy and slick approach will still dazzle enough customers to keep them warm through winter. Those customers quickly move on once they realise they’re not much more than a statistic, worthy only of bland, generic marketing campaigns with little thought to their actual wants or needs.

Who’s doing it right: Kudos to the Bigpond team on Twitter (@bigpondteam ). They know you’ve been screwed over in the past and they just want you to know that they are listening.
Who’s doing it wrong: Companies AND individuals who have an account in every social media port and use the same tired, old lines on all of them. Broadcasting the same message through such a diverse range of applications does not a strategy make.

Shortcuts aren’t just for keyboards

Despite the fact that many aspects of our lives continue to be made inexplicably easier with each passing year, there will always be a special group of people looking for a shortcut. 10,000 followers on Twitter in 3 days; a popular blog with scrapings of everyone else’s brilliant content; instant You Tube fame complete with sponsor interest and meme infamy. It alienates those willing to invest time and effort and irritates almost everyone who has to put up with the result. And yet it continues because unfortunately it works. Those who succeed (and even those who don’t) then get to take it to a new level – selling the secret shortcuts to finding the shortcuts.

Who’s doing it right: Stephen Fry deserves his resurgence in popularity for all the effort he is investing in his personal and professional brand. He blogs, he tweets, he’s available on iTunes. While consistent, his interaction is intermittent enough to be genuine. And all of this in between filming prime time television and celebrity hob nobbing.
Who’s doing it wrong: You’ve got 10 examples sitting in your inbox right now.

Losing control can be fun

Those hippies were on to something! By loosening the grip on their brand, some companies have been able to experience something out of this world. Whether it is the integration of user generated content into a campaign or refusing to censor the dissedent voice in forums, brands have been communicated in the voice of the customer in a bold new way. Unfortunately sometimes the experience can be a disaster, sure to cause painful flashbacks for decades to come. You can play it safe and minimise the risk, you just need to know what you’re getting into,  do it with people you trust and, of course, everything in moderation.

Who’s doing it right: I love this example of SUNY New Paltz and left it strategically under the noses of my previous employer’s management team. It’s a great reminder that if you’re doing things right you have no need to fear the odd negative comment.
Who’s doing it wrong: Nothing sticks out more than the Chevrolet Chevy Tahoe campaign which turned into an anti-SUV broadcast faster than you can say “Canyonero”. It shouldn’t be a deterrant to UGC though, merely a mistake to learn from and improve on.

Play by the rules or else

As I’ve posted previously, I get frustrated at the way red cards go flying up whenever someone doesn’t conform to the rules of play of social media. For such a collaborative, scalable, unique, innovative concept it sure has a lot of rules and penalties. The world wide web should be big enough for all of us to play nice and if it isn’t then at least show a little appreciation for the diversity of the game. It’s a bit like that new AFL ad, where they show you all the decent sports you could be watching instead of AFL.

Who’s doing it right: In its simplest form, I think the blogging community is getting this right. It amazes me how a few widgets and a different perspective can create such a unique user experience. Even the stock standard templates allow anyone’s personality to shine through if they choose.
Who’s doing it wrong: Me. The fact that I have just listed 4 examples of who’s doing it right and wrong by my opinion clearly demonstrates that I don’t practise what I preach. So piss off.

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  1. Good points and food for thought! I totally agree with your first point. It’s all about relationships! The goal isn’t to roam around on social networks handpicking friends. Instead, get involved with communities of interest, and grow these experiences and relationships BEFORE you need them. Remember, if you are building relationships strictly for business, they will have less impact. That’s because being part of relationships is what real people do. We all know people have a job to do, but there are lots of us who prefer people do it elsewhere than social media if they’re going to use traditional “bomb” marketing and sales efforts, versus “hand to hand” relationship building.

    • You’re right, there’s nothing I hate more than feeling very aware that I’m being sold to by some cocky salesperson. Even worse if they come into my personal environment to do it.

  2. There’s very little to argue with here! Really well made points.

    Mind you, I do wish Mr Fry would update his podcasts a little more frequently. It’s been a good couple of months… if intemittent = genuine, then there’s no doubting his authenticity!

    • I’m just trying to cover my own butt for when I get too lazy to blog regularly. Intermittent = genuine and genius, right? RIGHT??
      Thanks for your comments Tim!

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