Late December 2009, I was knocked over by two conditions:
- the huge number of social media job descriptions appearing on job sites
- a simple statistic predicting that 86% of Companies were planning a Social Media Marketing Bump in their Budgets for 2010.
They prompted me to write — the 10 Crucial Roles of a Social Media Director. That piece brought me fact to face with something I’d suspecting for some time …
To bring a new business to the web, the culture has to become a beginner again. The larger the business the harder that is â¦ they have more past success, more to lose, more to fear, less to win. — 10 Crucial Roles of a Social Media Director in 2010
I’ve been watching the differences between how individuals and small business use social media and how big brands do ever since. What strikes me now is a number of myths that have grown around how brands incorporate social media into their cultures.
Though it can be said that big brands move more slowly than a smaller, more flexible startup might move, we can’t assume that slowly means blind, uncaring or mentally inept.
Big brands didn’t get to be big brands by getting everything wrong.
So I asked some of the people I admire most about navigating the social web while working in a brand culture. What myth about brands, business, and social media would you most like to put to rest?
I’ve sorted their answers into 12 major myths. Their words are filled with the mysteries they’re facing and the magic it takes to move a big company to serve customers well.
[I’ve included their names, their industries, links and their twitter streams. Each individual is offering his or her own opinion and observations — not those of his company or brand.]
Myth 1: Social Media Is a Science
Working with people is rarely all tools and numbers. It’s called the “web,” because we link and connect in myriad ways — site to site, message to message, comment to comment, Facebook to Twitter — which all comes down to person to person.
Even one to many is really one to one, one, one, one, one, one, one. Count me as a many; I’ll still feel it like a one.
Social media isn’t a ‘science’ one can master, but the ‘art’ of treating people well. — Robyn Tippins, Community Director
Myth 2: We Can’t Separate the Person and the Company
Great companies realize that people have been meeting and making friends with people who work at companies all of our adult lives — in person, on the phone, through email. Sometimes we meet friends who work at companies. Sometimes company folks become friends. Words in text online might seem to make this more important, but it’s not.
We don’t share the same with all of our colleagues, friends, and acquaintances offline. Why assume that we would online?
I’m not sure if I can be of much help; I deliberately keep my online activities separate from my employer’s brand. I don’t generally engage in social media on my employer’s behalf (though I think this would be a fun career, it’s not the one I have). And I don’t want to have to plaster disclaimers on all of my blog posts. Beyond this, I don’t know what “myths” you’re talking about. Tell me some, and maybe I can put them to rest. — Holly Jahangiri, author, Tech Writer, Information Developer @Holly Jahangiri
Myth 3: All We Do Is On Twitter and Facebook
Great social media teams and their directors spend much of their time managing change — making sure that folks understand the relationships, not just the tools. They “get” that people learn and adapt at their own speed. Great companies serious about taking on more social presence realize both the opportunities and the responsibilities.
Understanding before action is a smart move.
One of the biggest myths is that the fruits of our labor are summed up by our brand’s Twitter or Facebook presence. A response from a company representative doesn’t necessarily indicate they’re actually listening in a meaningful way. Many companies that don’t have the same type of social media presence per se really are listening by doing things like analyzing conversational information and transforming it into data that can be used to improve products and services. This may change someday, but right now, most of the “work” involved with social media centers around helping the company adapt and get contextual understanding of conversations happening online, how they can participate in a meaningful (and legal) way, and re-orient the interface of the business toward the real-time web. — Shannon Paul, Social Media Director, Insurance Industry, @ShannonPaul
Myth 4: Legal Is the Enemy
Great social media companies know how diverse teams build strong strategies through dialogue. It’s easy to find people who think the same as we do. But the best ideas stand the test of different points of view.
People who think differently add value.
I would like to put to rest the idea that Legal is always the roadblock to social media adoption. More times than not, my experience has been that the Legal folks have a ready willingness to help and provide the best counsel for their clients. My advice to anyone starting a social media program at a brand is to involve a member of the Legal team as early as possible. — Michael E. Rubin, Social Media Director, Financial Industry, @merubin
Myth 5: B2B Can’t Rock Social Media
Maybe it’s because consumer companies got into the game sooner; or maybe it’s because their consumer groups are larger and sometimes louder; whatever the reason, some folks are stuck on the idea that companies who sell to and partner with other businesses can’t use the social web to grow their businesses.
I’d love to dispel the myth that B2B can’t “do” social media. There are so many outstanding businesses proving that not only can it work, but that B2B might actually have advantages around content, relationship cycles, and niche communities. It’s time we look at social media as an enhancement to business as a whole, and adaptable to many different models. — Amber Naslund, Director of Community, Social Media Monitoring Industry, @ambercadabra
Myth 6: Social Media Is Just Another Marketing Channel
Great companies see the shift in relationships allowed by the speed and reach of new tools. Yet, they never lose sight of their values and the value of the relationships those tools touch.
Social is part of every business function and relationship.
The notion that social media is just another marketing channel is one that is short sighted and flawed. Sadly, many businesses charge junior staff with social media initiatives. Those efforts exist in a vacuumâand consequently come up short. The reality is that social media extends and enhances advertising campaigns, direct mail messaging, sales efforts, recruiting and just about every business goal if utilized correctly. When was the last time you heard of business tasking a bunch of interns to formulate a âtelephone strategy?â — Rob Birgfeld, Director of Audience Development, Marketing and Communications Industry @robbirgfeld
Myth 7: Social Media Is Free Broadcasting Platform
Social media spammers might not understand this one.
Community respects and listens.
The notion that social media is a free platform to blast out your brands message is honestly, complete crap and yes, a myth. First off, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are free, but the time and energy it takes to build and maintain an interactive community on them is not. Second, if you only want to talk about your brand and how fantastic it is, buy a print advertisement or a billboard that targets nameless, faceless people. — Sarah Caminker , Fundraising Manager, Nonprofit and Social Good, @SarahCaminker
Social media may be free, but itâs not just another broadcast platform. It requires a significant shift in how to think about connecting with customers, and it takes work and attention. — Richard Binhammer , Corporate Communications @RichardatDell
Myth 8: Brands Can’t Be Nimble
It’s true. Great brands know jack!
… the myth that I’d like to put to rest is that brands can’t be as nimble on social media as the rest of us. In fact, this depends on the brand and the visionaries who are responsible for driving communications for that brand. — Alexandra Levit , Business/Workplace Author, Journalist, Speaker @alevit
Myth 9: Brands Use Social Media Selfishly
Successful businesses large and small focus on supporting the people who help them thrive. The ROI of being selfish is negative. Great companies know that.
If I had to try and dispel one myth about brands and their use of social media it would be that companies only use social media to their exclusive advantage. Everyone has seen a few brands attempt to use social media to push their own agenda. Everyone has also seen these same companies falter … in public. Most everyone knows of a few companies that have had success with social media too. I think these companies have figured out a secret about social media — it’s that employees are passionate about being able to use their voice to do good.
These companies have figured out that the simple act of empowering their employees allows for a huge return. Not necessarily a traditional return on investment (ROI) – although that is often one of the effects. It’s more of a return on engagement. When people are engaged – they engage back. One way to think of this is that’s like a “corporate hug” – Most people don’t think about hugging a brand, but they will hug back when the brand makes the effort to engage them.
There are so many companies using, and I do mean the word USING, their corporate brand for the social good. Everyone knows of a few huge brands that are using their brand for corporate good. Which is great to see. There are also a few smaller companies using their brand to engage the community that deserve to be highlighted. One that comes to mind is the clothing company Life is Good. They put on a festival that combines outdoor and in-person activities with a great cause. Another is a subset of the work @ShaunaCausey of Comcast is doing with Voluntweetup – where Comcast sponsors community based efforts on a local scale.
There are countless companies using their brand to do some social good. I hope to see more and more of these stories start to be highlighted in the coming months and years. The smart companies are leveraging their brand and the power of social media to do some good.
Life is Good Festival – http://www.lifeisgood.com/festivals/history-of-Life-is-good-festivals.aspx
Voluntweetup – http://www.voluntweetup.net/wp/ — Jeff Shuey, Director of Business Development, @jshuey
Myth 10: Social Belongs in Marketing or PR, or…
From the first comment, the social web has been about conversation. Communication cannot be shoved into a single department or made a one-sided event. Everyone is responsible for owning and sharing what works. Every employee is the brand.
As with most things, being balanced is a very important and an often forgotten principle. Personally or professionally, folks usually operate on one side of the spectrum instead of somewhere on the mid line. Social media for business is no different and in my experience, I’ve seen people spend a lot of time arguing where social media should be housed or if it pertains to certain disciplines more than others instead of sitting down with each different group that social media will touch and say, “How in the heck can we bring to our people (clients, audience, constituents, what have you) the message in the way they want and is best for them to digest it.” Social media has many facets that touch about how an organization speaks with its publics, so it should be discussed from the top down and all around in an organization’s goals and business strategies. The reason this is so difficult and why so many struggle is because marketing, PR and other disciplines have been segregated or siloed in most organizations. People and departments need to collaborate in order to succeed long term and with the masses. Social media is no exception, and its existence in fact could very well be the thing that starts holding organizations accountable to collaboration. — Lisa Grimm, Digital PR Specialist, @lulugrimm
From General Motors’ standpoint, our social media outreach efforts are not just another PR program. We are interested in keeping the relationship going. Once you are family – we want to keep you in the family. — Connie Burke, Communications Manager, Social Media, @connieburke
Myth 11: Brands Think Too Much, Too Little, Not Enough
Brands are people. We all do all of that.
I think most brands, large and small, worry far too much about how they, themselves, should manage social media, and far too little about how customers use it, and more importantly, how customers interact with the products we offer up. — Robyn Tippins, Community Director, Internet Developer Network, @duzins
Myth 12: Social Media Is a Waste of Time
Time spent without meaning and value is a waste of time. That’s not a social media problem that’s something else.
The social media myth that is no longer valid is that “social media doesn’t work or is a waste of time.” You are reading this, engaging this, using this, retweeting this, arguing this, and thinking about this statement because of social media. There’s no denying it, whether you agree with the termonolgy or not, social media is the new means of communication and connection. It’s no longer a matter of standing out, it’s a matter of relevancy and ultimately existence for your brand. — Kristen Rielly, New Media Developer, @GeekGirls
When we learn, we take in new information and test it against old models we’ve built on information we’ve gathered in the past. Sometimes, we forget to let the new information replace the old … and a myth forms.
What myths about brands and social media do you think need taking down?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
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