Has anyone noticed what happened to social media over the last few years? Um… where did all the content go? Communications have been reduced from actual status reports to inaccurate quotes, fake Asian proverbs, and the latest rage, a (not so) funny comment imposed on bad rip-offs of Charles Dana Gibson style illustrations. Everyone is sharing someone else’s half-wit humor, silly cat video; or changing their profile pic to the latest mass political stance – is this what we’ve been reduced to? As much as it pains me to say it, we may have seen the relevance of social media pass. Sigh.
Social media is probably one of the most adaptive and evolving innovations of the new digital world. Even as I am writing this, some student is toiling away in his mother’s basement creating the next great social share platform that will completely revolutionize social media – again. The number of social channels is growing on a daily basis. The spectrum covers everything from micro-blogging to gaming communities and everything in between. Staying on top of all the changes and platforms can be a daunting task. For a company without an abundance of capital to throw at the problem it is virtually impossible. Let’s face it; we all can’t afford to have a team of strategists pushing our brand 24-7. In the real world – most of us are struggling to keep up with production. It is almost impossible for any small or medium sized enterprise (SME) to stay on top of what is happening in the social sphere.
If you run a web search for just about any iteration of “social media strategy,” you will find a plethora of opinions on how to run a perfect campaign. A dizzying array of to-dos, positions and strategies, some have validity others not so much; in either case, unless you have a devoted marketing team with its own social media division any advice is merely suggestive hopes and dreams.
I am here to offer an alternative, a common sense approach to a social media campaign for SMEs.
There is no reason to believe that social media is going to suddenly change the way your company (no matter how big or small) does business. Be realistic; know the limitations of what a social strategy can do for you. It’s a slow burn. Just because you start posting does not mean that people are suddenly going to find you, listen, and engage your message with a response. Think of your social strategy more as a cultural change. Start small and work your way into the market .With steady persistence you will be rewarded.
We all have friends on Facebook who post comments about every event throughout their day, entertaining us with their boredom. My advice: don’t be that person. If you want people to listen to what you are saying, post relevant information. It does not have to be directly related to your business, but there should be some sort of subtle connection where people who know what you do can find the information and draw their own conclusions. I’m reminded of a quote from one of the pioneers of design thinking, David Sibbit, in his book Visual Meetings, he writes in a chapter about getting people involved, “People are more engaged by things that are suggestive than by things that are crystal clear.” This couldn’t be more applicable than in social media. By being suggestive, subscribers are more likely participate in the thought process you are trying to create. Rather than telling them what to think engage them to draw their own correlations. You should post on pertinent news, legislation, and other things that affect your business and customers, but do so in an open-ended manner that will foster engagement in an insightful, meaningful manner.
When I was studying for my undergrad in Illustration, one theme that kept repeating itself throughout the curriculum was what we called “voice.” This voice was a mixture of several things. It was part style, part message, and part personality. Style, as I see it, is a blend of technique and medium. Message is subject matter plus perspective, and personality is the passion from which the work is created. The final form is your “voice,” and when all things are working together, your “voice” is what is prevalent. What is true in art is also true in business. You already have your voice. It is your passion, your perspective and your message as an enterprise. Take what motivates you and talk about it. When all these aspects are working together it is authentic which resonates with users.
One mistake that I see often in social campaigns is that companies are talking more than they are listening. Have you ever had a real conversation with someone who just talks and won’t ever give you time to lend your point of view? Engaging people on social media is mostly about listening. If you know (follow, friend, make connection, etc.) your audience and you are paying attention to their voices the benefits are reciprocal and produce true relationships with opportunities for both parties to grow. This is your chance to provide customers a simple easy way to suggest, recommend and share success stories. You can also respond to a demand or need that your competition is missing.
Social media campaigns – like any message efforts – require understanding and experience. If you’re interested in building a social media strategy, be sure you have a handle on the technology, the culture, the opportunities, the risks, and the investment. Set aside some time to learn about what is going on. Find some people and companies to follow, friend, or connect with, and observe their behavior for a while. Start with your competitors and clients; listen to what people are saying. Share little and listen a lot. When you’re ready to start really participating in the social media scene, make sure you have a plan that’s consistent with your overall brand strategy. Remember that for companies, social media isn’t social at all, it’s marketing.
According to research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, as of 2012 corporate blogs at Fortune 500 companies are up 12% since 2008, 66% are on Facebook and 73% have twitter accounts. These companies spend millions of dollars every year on social media strategy. The truly great part of this media is, it’s not a Super bowl ad – you can essentially have the same presence with a fraction of the investment. Be relevant and passionate, and always remember that content is king. With persistence and the right approach, the benefits will come.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, its employees, members, or associates.
Christopher C. Fick is the Art Director at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences; with a background in both manufacturing and visual design he is looking to bridge the gap between the creative and technical fields.
Check out www.ncms.org/CreativeSolutions for more information.