On the occasion I am asked to give a Social Media 101 presentation (or, really, any social media presentation), I always start with the four following quotes. They lay out the ground rules for any successful social media endeavor.
1: "Social media is to marketing as eye contact is to a handshake." — Meg Fowler Tripp
Rule #1 is that social media does not replace traditional marketing. Social media exists to extend and enhance your old-school marketing efforts, to make your company and your brand more accessible and more authentic. You may shift some of your marketing budget away from old channels like TV and display advertising into social media — and, no, social media is not "free" — but anyone who tells you to stop buying ads and start deep-diving into Facebook is either an idiot, a snake oil salesman, or both.
2: "We're addicted to campaigns, not commitments." — Ian Schafer
Social media doesn't fit into your media-buy spreadsheet. You don't "run" Twitter for six weeks, measure the response, and decide to re-up. That's how you measure Twitter advertising. Real Twitter participation, and all social media, is about developing relationships. Some of those relationships may lead to sales later, but all of them should lead to trust.
Think of a social media account as a new branch office you've just opened in a promising new market. You're often well served to do a "soft open" — don't advertise the new place, just see who walks in and how you can help them — but you can't close after six weeks and expect anyone to take you seriously again. And if you do promote the new office — "Check us out on Facebook!" — you absolutely can't abandon the place without damaging your brand. If you're not ready to go all-in on social media for the long haul, don't start.
3: "Learn how to listen. Simple, I know, but it's a best practice." — Chris Brogan
A successful social media strategy starts by not posting anything. Instead, once you've created a company account, sit around and listen for a while. Get the lay of the land. See who is talking about your business, both in the particulars of your organization and the generalities of your industry. Only once you've got a feel for the place should you start joining the conversation. And that doesn't mean shameless promotion. Jumping in with the pitch from Day One just makes you the online equivalent of Ned Ryerson and, if you pull that stunt too many times, you'll get treated like Ned, too.
4: "Markets are conversations." — The Cluetrain Manifesto
If you're going to read one book on social media success, read the decade-old foundation piece that started social media in the first place, The Cluetrain Manifesto. It's not new, it's not trendy, it's not "blue ocean" — it's just true. Consumers no longer blindly consume (assuming they ever did), but now want to know who makes the products they see, who uses the products they're interested in, and how best to enjoy the products they eventually buy. They want to talk to everyone before, during, and even well after the purchase. Most of those conversations happen online today, through Facebook, Twitter, user-blogs, and a dozen other online communities and venues. If you're not ready to be a responsible, forthright part of those conversations, you're going to lose business to companies that will.
Start with these four quotes, and you're off on a good footing for the social business environment ahead.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.