I like to think of myself as experienced in Social Media, I have been using pretty much every platform for years now in a casual sense, and for at least 5 years in various business industries. I have read books (and thoroughly recommend ‘Share This!’ by the CIPR) as well as articles and tutorials in my attempt to stay current in this fast paced digital marketing world.
Aneela wrote an interesting piece recently on whether Social Media was harder than PR, in which her experience was that social media managers struggle to get PR, where as PR managers find it easier to grasp social media. I guess as the Aneela Rose PR Social Media Executive it is my job to lead the rebuttal.
To be clear, I am not about to argue that Social Media is harder than PR, merely that it is not as easy or simple as some might think, and could well be on par in the difficulty of learning. You see, as Aneela pointed out, PR takes years to teach; social media tends to be done on the job. This strikes up all manner of problems for us poor social media professionals, because no book, seminar, tutorial video or magazine article on the subject will ever stay up to date, no matter how current it is at the time of writing. One glaringly obvious example is MySpace. Go back to 2008, just 6 years ago, and it was the most widely used social media network in the world (until Facebook overtook it in April that year). You could have spent thousands (and maybe you did) investing in training, techniques and designs that would get the most out of your MySpace page, only for it to be completely and utterly obsolete just a few years later.
Fast-forward to today and we sit in the same boat, how long before the Facebook & Twitter bubbles burst? What will be the next method for people to interact and share their thoughts and ideas through? What happens if and when everyone leaves social media for good?
None of these questions can be answered right now, and so you have to remember that unlike PR, social media is an uncertainty that changes and shifts on an almost daily basis. To keep up with it alone is an arduous task let alone doing anything successful with it. Here lies the second part to my counter argument.
If you believe just setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page is ‘doing’ social media, you are not doing it right. This is a problem many businesses face with their own social media. A lack of campaign, objectives or ideas leads to stale and stagnant spaces, which if another business or consumer stumbles on may put them off the brand altogether. Now, using social media properly is a whole new article I could (and will) write unto itself, but I will keep it brief here:
Social media is about being social!
Don’t expect instant gratification and sales increases simply because you now have 2000 twitter followers or 3000 Facebook page likes, this is not what social media is for. It is about opening up new channels of communication with potential and existing customers, then using these channels to grow and strengthen your relationships. Sure they may not be interested in buying your product today, but if you can leave a positive impression and actively talk to them, you will be the first company in mind when that customer wants to buy. You should be using social media to boost your position in those important early steps of a customer purchase decision-making process.
I am not saying this will be easy, in fact this is my point, it’s not, but if you use social media properly and engage with your customers instead of just firing advertising messages at them the whole time, then I guarantee the results will be amazing in the long term, and that’s what counts right?