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Social Media Is Not a Condiment

Lisa Braziel.

Working for a social media agency has shown me first-hand how companies adopt new mediums.  The first phase seems to be that of denial - that these new fangled inventions can be ignored until they pass.  The second phase is that of casual acceptance, and in social media this is when you see companies cordially place "Follow Us" in emails and other existing website materials to almost prove why social media marketing isn't working for them. 

And now I'm afraid I am witnessing a third newly emerging phase: the use of social media as a condiment.

In the following points, let me explain the 4 myths that are often involved in this line of thinking.

Myth #1: Social Media is an after-thought

More and more, companies are approaching agencies like ours to help figure out social media and what it can do.  The only unfortunate part of this is that most approach us after they have developed a campaign, and they are seeking us to throw our special social sauce on it in a matter of weeks or days.  At this point we feel there isn't much we can do (even with our special sauce).  This is because in our opinion, something inherently social has to be thought-of from the very beginning.  So, if you are thinking of a campaign that you'd like to promote through your Twitter and Facebook account - allow enough lead time to answer simple yet crucial questions like, "Why would someone want to share this?"  You may find that you have a campaign that may be compelling to you but no one else, and will find it more beneficial to go back to the drawing board.

Myth #2: Social Media is a cover-up

Condiments can be used to cover up cheap meat, but covering up bad products or bad campaigns with social media is a bad idea. We are picky with what clients, products, and campaigns we choose to promote because we know the amplifying effect of social media. As a marketer, take time to evaluate the consumer responses you may hear during focus groups or within existing product reviews. If the response is overwhelmingly negative, it's not the time to use social media, it's time to make a product that people want.

Additionally, think about the quality of content you are creating in the social space.  Is it designed to meet your needs or your client's needs? Simply designing content that your customers want to consume can make your social media efforts more attractive and easier to promote.  Too many social efforts focus on the promotion of the content rather than the content itself. 

Myth #3: Social Media is quick

I think that because social media tools are easy and quick to update, many traditional marketers view it as a quick and easy way to get additional traffic.  Just like a squirt bottle of ketchup, they think that they can easily squeeze out some social and receive immediate results.  Even though we have been known to turn around campaigns fast, in my opinion the most valuable efforts in social media have been the long-term efforts that build on themselves.  Blogging is the best example of this, and is one of the strongest lead generators for us as a company.  No, we didn't get calls from people reading our blog overnight - it took a good 3-6 months before we started seeing the return from our efforts. 

Myth #4: The more social media the better

Ever looked at someone's refrigerator to see a door full of condiments that are rarely used?  This is often the mindset of marketers who decide to get into a social network, "just in case" one of their customers may find it appealing, or just to be able to say they have a presence on a particular network. For your social presence to be effective, you must understand what types of social media your audience consumes, how they consume it, and how you can provide value and meaning into the conversation.  Be selective and choose the networks that make sense for you to achieve your business objectives and provide value to your customers.

The main takeaway from this is that if you finding yourself viewing social media as an add-on instead of a change in the way you communicate with your customers - you and your customers will probably be disappointed.  It will take strategy and time to develop social media marketing tactics that can effectively achieve both your objectives and meet your customers needs, and sometimes takes patience to move in a  more long-term direction that doesn't seem to be overtly selling your product.

This said, what ways do you see social media being used as a condiment?  


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Comments
  • http://twitter.com/LAlexanderson Lauren Alexanderson

    Thanks, Lisa. This is a fantastic point that I think cannot be underscored enough. In my new media work (in public health) - I try to emphasize the POST strategy (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology). The key is, the technology comes last AFTER we've figured out who we want to reach and with what information, what kind of outcomes we want to produce, and how we're going to engage and communicate. Everyone is so excited to get to the "T"that the POS becomes "Passed Over Superficially"

  • http://www.vacationsfiesta.com Antonio Paez

    This is an outstanding post, I thank you for sharing this kind of information with us!! It will also help me to sell social media within my organization, as they often think it is a condiment.

  • http://www.onlinebusinessblackbook.com/ Cemil

    The very interesting thing is that you are seeing more and more "older" businesses taking up Social Media. Some of the larger department stores and general retailers are now on twitter and have facebook pages. Many now have blog's that they are using to connect ona different level to the consumer.

    Social Media is great!

  • http://themollybuckley.com/ still being [Molly]

    Great post, Lisa! I really appreciate #2 the most. I hear so often from people, "Oh why don't we just try and use social media to promote "insert crappy product here" or "insert crappy brand here."" and the reality is, social media is so transparent, that people will see right through it, no matter what kind of "pretty wrapping" you put on it.

    Really insightful, Lisa! Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/socialarts Analisa Svehaug

    This post speaks quite accurately to the issues I have had with clients as well, who acknowledge that social media is important, but don't dedicate the time or energy!

    I was wondering if you had some anecdotes, or tips for how to handle a client who lets their social media agency set them up with networking and community building tools, but then neglects to use them?