Social Media: Chances Are You’re Doing it Wrong


Image credit: CaptainBagpuss on Flickr

I would never call myself a social media expert – in fact, I don’t think anyone can really claim they have expertise in something that has been around for less than a decade. By my count it was around 2008 when social media really burst into mainstream culture. The PR firm I was working for at the time started offering (more like experimenting) with implementing social media into our PR services. It never quite felt like we were doing it right. It always felt too prescribed and not authentic.

There are brands and companies out there with killer social media strategy and presence. But that does not mean that social media is right for your company or product, or at least not a generic campaign managed by an outside agency.

My two cents: no social media (or at least anything outside of LinkedIn) is better than bad or weak social media. What I’m talking about is engagment, followers, likes and yes, authenticity.

A typical social media campaign managed by a PR agency is generic:

  • Timed posts drafted by junior employees
  • No live engagement with your community
  • Analytics that say little to nothing that you are paying top dollar for

A PR firm is all about utilizing your retainer or account hours – filling the time with something. Often that means going through the motions of social media management. AND very often PR is the lowest priority for your account team. It’s an afterthought.

One of the biggest mistakes I have come across again and again is the client that wants to be on Facebook and Twitter but has a boring, too technical product for social media communities to glom onto. Very often the stories clients are telling are too complicated for an average person to understand (mistake #1 in product marketing). The theory of K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Stupid) is lost on the client and they are often too in love with their ideas, wording, or what have you. So of course Company X thinks they will and should be darlings of every social media channel they touch. Company X is in love with themselves and unfortunately PR companies are too prone to always saying YES and then having to execute a half dead corpse of a social media campaign. I don’t understand this culture of “the client is always right” – the client is not always right and it should be our jobs as PR professionals to tell them that. This is not a restaurant, this is business.

So what makes sense for you and your company or product?

  • Is what you are doing visual or is there a visual element? Perhaps Instagram or Pinterest would make sense.
  • Are you targeting millennials or young Gen Xers? Facebook all the way and maybe if it makes sense check out Snapchat.
  • Are you a B2B or enterprise company? Probably should just stick to LinkedIn, unless you have a lot of personality and then consider Twitter with some advising .
  • Have a CEO or company exec with a lot to say? Start a Medium page and for the love of god draft your own content. I cannot tell you how much C-level content out there is written by PR agencies and it shows! Stand apart and get your unique voice out there (your agency or PR rep would be a great editor in the process).

The fact of the matter is, social media should not be a certain amount of posts per week or month that are pre drafted and approved by your marketing department. If you go on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram your feed is a living entity. There is an exchange between poster and commenter. There is a conversation that should be taking place. It’s not just about pushing out as much content as possible. It’s about having something interesting to say and then staying in the conversation. It’s not about scheduling specific times during the day to check on your account(s) – social media is always on and your activity should reflect that.

So much of traditional PR is phoney: Drafting quotes for executives that never said them, ghost writing articles for CEOs, using press release distribution as way to get attention even when the announcement is irrelevant or boring – Social media is about being authentic, giving the public a line of access and communication to a person or a company. You can’t fake that or put a generic strategy around it.

The solution:

  1. Have a social media and or PR consultant that you trust. Someone that does not say “Yes” to everything thing you say or recommend. Someone who will push back. Someone who already understands your community better than you.
  2. Social media should be essentially monitored everyday, all day – this does not mean having to sit with screens open 24/7. There are tools out there to help you. But what this does mean is you should be willing to pay the extra money for the time a person or a team puts into keeping all hands on deck.
  3. If you’re not willing to have some personality with your company voice, you probably don’t belong on all the channels. People want to be entertained – they need a reason to click, to follow, to like – what’s special about what you’re saying? Why should any care?

You can’t fake good social media. It’s not just something you go through the motions of doing. It takes finesse, skill, talent and personality. But at the same time there are no hard and fast rules–it’s still the wild west out there. Try things. Be creative. Be genuine. Be apart of your community and find the authentic voice of your company.

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