Monday, December 7, 2009

Have Patience With Everything... But Mostly Social Media.

photo from Asiria / Flickr
No one has ever called me patient. Ever. Not to my face or behind my back or any other time that I can remember. I find people who walk slow unbearable. Which I why when I dole out that advice so often I do genuinely feel a bit hypocritical. And I understand when people don't want to be patient or why they think that me telling them to be patient is just me lying to them about if social media works or not.
With all of this in mind, I'm writing a post about patience with social media.

Why We're In Such A Hurry
Basically everyone has heard some story about Ford or Best Buy and how they attribute social media to huge sales. If you knew there were a way to turn an online conversation on Twitter into profits wouldn't you be in a pretty big hurry to try it? Of course you would, so brands call social media agencies to help them figure out how to take their slumping sales and turn them into millions by the first of the year. When I'm a part of these meetings I ask about goals in social media and what they're doing on their site and on Twitter and then I ask them their timeline and brace myself. Sometimes I catch myself wincing.
"We want to do a 2 month test." This is hands down the most common answer I've heard in the last 2 years and it is, for the record, a fine answer.

Why We Get So Annoyed
2 months is kind of a tipping point for a lot of people in social media for 2 reasons.
1) The novelty has worn off and Twitter is just something you have to update, your fans on Facebook are slowing to a trickle, and maybe someone commented negatively on your corporate (or personal) blog. You no longer are thinking about how awesome it is that your brand has friends online and you're wondering what good this is bringing the company. Maybe it has increased sales a bit and maybe it hasn't. You start to wonder if you're wasting your time.
2) Some of your messaging isn't working with your audience and you know you have to change it but you don't know what to change it to. A lot of companies have only a Plan A when it comes to social and month 2 is where you can really start optimizing. If you know how.

So What Can You Expect After 2 Months?
I am always telling bloggers not to give up their blog because no one is reading it. In fact, the only things you can definitely expect after 2 months of blogging are sharpened writing skills and a better idea of what doesn't work. Most people will have under 30 readers after 2 months of blogging.
If you extend this to social media in general, you can expect much the same. A better understanding of the channels that you are using, what works, what doesn't, and some good tricks you've picked up along the way. Can you think up a great stunt and see leverage in 2 months? Yes. But that's a spike, not necessarily the makings for a good long term social presence.

To avoid the loss of novelty issue it's important to have good goals for social media on the outset. Pretty much anything can become a chore at some point so if you are only doing a company Twitter feed because Twitter is fun then you will likely get bored with it and stop updating it. If your Twitter goal is to find and respond to 20 industry related questions per week then it becomes part of your job or your routine. Specific goals let you know that you are moving forward even if you are bored with your blog this week.

To solve the issue of "Plan A didn't work, now what?' you've got to keep detailed data of why certain content isn't working and be listening online. If you aren't getting any comments or responses at all then you probably need to focus on building your audience which means you'll need to listen more. For example, if you are a flooring business and you want to talk about your new product line and no one is responding I'd wager that if you start listening to conversations you'll find your audience is taking about something else. Like which flooring matches which kind of countertops or the best ways to clean flooring. Now if you don't listen at all, you won't figure this out and you'll continue to talk about your new flooring items and people will continue to not comment. In other words, your Plan B should be reactive to what's going on online already.

A Word Of Encouragement
Have patience with your social media endeavor, whether it's a personal blog or a new campaign. If at 2 months you haven't come very far don't give it up. Lots of really successful campaigns getting attention right now are only pretending that they just woke up, tried it, and yay... profits! I know for a fact that Ford has a rather long trail of trial and error behind the Fiesta program.


Blogger Royce said...

For the benefit of your readership, this is a related BusinessWeek article titled "Beware Social Media Snake Oil"

December 8, 2009 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Royce said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 8, 2009 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Royce said...

It becomes clear to me that I should summarize the article so it doesn't look like I'm attacking you by posting that - the BW article actually echoes most of what you write. Its concluding statement is that "consultants should focus on results and not just buzz" which is exactly what you describe. I think your manadate for patience in reviewing those results is well-founded.

Mainly what BW communicates is that the social media consulting industry is in its formative stages, as companies struggle to quantify the benefits of their social media campaigns. If a company pushes you to quantify their return on investment after a 2 year period, are you typically successful getting them to be patient as you describe above?

December 8, 2009 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Royce - heehee, I didn't think you were attacking me it's an excellent post and I think there are WAAAAAY to many people out there claiming social media is a magic bullet.
appreciate the link here!

December 8, 2009 at 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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December 8, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

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