You can buy attention (advertising)
You can beg for attention from the media (PR)
You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales)
…Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an ebook, a Facebook page.
If I had to compare social media to any pre-existing business function, I immediately think of customer service. You can’t dump traditional advertising messages, marketing copy, or public relations pleas on social networks without nearly every single eyeball seeing it calling it for what it is – coercion. Trust me when I say I’m not agency-bashing. I think extending relationships to clients, and more importantly, prospective clients, is best left to people that already *deal* with the full life cycle of a client. Agencies are bleeding money and clients, and as a result – headcount. Even the best and the brightest are getting pink-slipped. The whole idea of shoving messages at people doesn’t work any longer. It’s time to think different. Use what you have.
If you want to launch your own Social Media initiative within your company, please don’t hire interns to run the program. Hire displaced customer service management, a firm with experience listening to people on the web, and a technologist to help you get past the ‘shiny.’
The other day I was chatting with my mom about sales cycles and business lead generation, and it lead to that very interesting idea. For background, my mother has a decades-long background in customer service, inside sales, and call center management. It’s her job to have her finger on the pulse of customers, deal with problems and issues, up-sell, contract renewals, keep the sales staff informed, know product cycles, etc. Did I mention she’s been out of work for over a year now? Why firms don’t grab up talent like that for their back office social media work is beyond me. (Don’t ask for her resume, I am looking to hire her myself!)
One of the most exploited social media case studies is ComcastCares on Twitter. Frank (now with a stellar team online with him) turned the image of Comcast on it’s ear. Why did it work so well? Because a department that was used to dealing with every customer-facing aspect of the business used a new channel to perform their work, reach customers before they reached the tipping point, and become proactively involved in problem resolution.
The good agencies are learning and retooling their staff to deal with this new channel of communication. In some cases they are acquiring smaller boutique firms that specialize in social media communications, branding, and outreach (crayon & The Advance Guard come to mind). In the end the ones that get it, or need to get it quickly, are smaller firms that can turn on a dime based on their client needs. The landscape of the web has changed drastically over the past 2-3 years, it’s time to think outside the circle and cultivate untapped talent. What takes less time and produces better results? Forcing an old-school ad guys that still don’t think the social web has any value to retro-fit a campaign to work on Twitter, or taking skilled client-facing people and giving them a few more tools on the web to do their job?