Last month, blogger Allison Boyer compiled a great list: “25 Social Media Posts Everyone Should Read.” I love posts like this because they highlight some terrific stuff that I otherwise might miss.
With that in mind, I wanted to suggest five additions to Boyer’s list–posts from the past year that I think are must reads. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Are we killing our customers with engagement? by Neicole Crepeau
In this post, Crepeau articulates something that absolutely needs to be said: most brands overestimate the degree to which their customers want to hear from them in the social sphere. In looking at social media primarily as a marketing vehicle, Crepeau notes, many companies end up creating nothing but noise that interferes with the conversations and content their customers value. As she says:
Customers aren’t beating down the doors of businesses begging them, “engage with me, please!”
Customers want to engage with their friends. They want to engage with content that amuses, teaches, or inspires them. They may want to engage with their friends about said content.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that companies shouldn’t listen to customers and respond to them. Good companies have been listening to their customers for years, in the ways available at the time. Good companies will continue to monitor, respond, answer questions, address concerns, elicit suggestions, all through social media as well as other means.
It’s the inane and sometimes manipulative attempts to converse and engage people that I’m decrying. With all the competition for our attention, the flood of content and news and status updates, I think consumers increasingly resent attempts to draw their attention with questions, content, contests, and conversations that aren’t valuable, relevant, fun, or interesting. It’s just more noise.
We’ve created a monster, by telling every company that they NEED a Facebook page and Twitter account and that they need to converse and engage.
While those words may be difficult to hear, they should be required reading for brands that take a “build it and they will come” approach to social media. It’s yet another reminder that instead of using social media solely as a megaphone, at least half of our social media efforts should be spent with a glass against the wall, listening to what our audience is saying.
2. The Only ‘Rule’ For Social Media You Need to Know: Start Small by Brian Sheehan
The “monster” that Crepeau mentions is often has more than two heads: companies not only hear that they “have to” be on Facebook and Twitter, but also LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, etc., etc., etc. As a result, many companies looking to launch a social media strategy either get overwhelmed and never do anything, or end up with a fragmented effort that exhausts their resources within months–even weeks–after they begin. In his post, Sheehan suggests an approach that, while much more modest, is also much more likely to lead to success:
Too many companies start with a list of things they “need” to do to get in the social marketing game…
This is entirely the wrong way to go about it…[Y]our chances of online conversations going poorly multiply when you are either trying to instigate more conversations than you can handle (i.e., your “to do” list is too big), and/or your resource level is too small.
[J]ust do one thing. And then do it really well. Once you have mastered this, then — and only then — think about doing a second social-marketing program.
3. Where Are Social Media Marketers Seeing the Most Success? on the eMarketer Digital Intelligence blog
So if you shouldn’t try to do it all, where’s the best place to begin? Common knowledge suggests that Facebook is the best choice given it’s popularity. After all, 750 million members can’t be wrong…right? As usual, however, conventional wisdom isn’t always very wise, as the study cited in this post demonstrates:
Eighty-five percent of companies viewed Facebook as successful, a significant jump from 54% in 2009. Yet Facebook hasn’t matched message or bulletin boards, with 93% reporting it was a successful tactic.
Social media is about much more than Facebook and Twitter. The only way to find out what’s right for you is to take a hard look at your objectives for using social media, your audience’s needs and the resources you have available to put toward the effort. That may lead you away from most popular, but it will also provide a much higher return on your investment.
4. I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You by Peter Shankman
A lot of people missed the point of this post. Shankman’s focus wasn’t the validity (or lack thereof) of the term “social media expert.” His intent was to call attention to the fact that social media is a means to an end, not an end unto itself–and that social media “expertise,” therefore, means very little on its own. As Shankman states:
Social Media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social Media, by itself, will not help you.
One problem Shankman identifies is that too many self-proclaimed “experts” have little experience beyond the realm of social media, and that leads to disastrous results for their clients:
Social media is not “cool.” MAKING MONEY IS COOL. Social Media is simply another arrow in the quiver of marketing, and that quiver is designed to GENERATE REVENUE.
If you’re doing anything else with social media, here’s a book of matches, and I expect to never see you again after the smoke clears.
Strong words–but much needed in an environment where bullshit often prevails over substance.
5. Is Technology Ruining Online Community? by Jay Baer
Jay Baer is probably my single favorite social media blogger. He consistently offers up great content that debunks some of the most common misconceptions about social media. “Is Technology Ruining Online Community?” is no exception. In this post, Baer says that instead of perfecting our use of the technology behind social media, we should be perfecting our skills in communication and service, and then use social media to improve customer retention and loyalty:
Today, we spend considerable time and effort and emotional capital on how to construct the ultimate online community, festooned with custom tabs and iframes and videos and the sparkling Christmas ornaments of social media.
I suggest we should largely eschew all that, recognizing it for the tip of the iceberg it really is…
[T]he way to win [the] game…isn’t through apps and case studies and metaphor and magic. It’s with social media staffing, populating your online community with a cadre of truly outstanding employees who can inform, entertain, and assist your customers.
Baer’s post synthesizes something that’s critical at a time when we have an infinite number of things we could do and a finite number of hours in the day: prioritization has never been more important. Or to put it another way, don’t get so lost in the nuances of technology that you can’t see the forest for the Tweets.
Those are my must read posts from the past year. What would you add to the list?