Getting social media before you jump on the bandwagon

Everyone and their mother is jumping on the social media bandwagon. Some are successful; they are immersed in it on a daily basis and thus in the midst of the action while the social media landscape changes every few months. Some, however, just don’t quite get it. Dabbling in social media once every so often; reading about the trends six months after they’ve happened; and not grasping the nonstructured, nonlinear nature of the medium are all characteristics of this latter camp.

The on-line landscape changes dramatically and quickly, and you'd better be pretty Web-fit to keep up with the latest social networks, tools, and viral campaigns. Suddenly, MySpace is sooo yesterday and Google Buzz is slated to be the new black. Hi5 fizzled as quickly as it started, and, despite “experts” prophesying that Twitter would be just another fad, like it or not, life in 140 characters or less is here to stay.

Old-school ways of marketing and structured guidelines don’t apply in the social media sphere. This is definitely a challenge in the corporate world, where senior marketing folks’ knowledge of social media typically doesn’t extend further than reading articles about it and seeing their kids use it. Also, they’re uncomfortable with the lack of structure and planning that comes with the social media beast. Blog articles often don’t have a clear beginning or ending. They are written more like a casual conversation and are likely violating every scholastic and technical rule out there. It is a medium that defies most classical rules of writing and communication. Grammatical errors. Run-on sentences. Blasphemous? Unprofessional? Perhaps, if you’re writing for Harper’s or the New Yorker, but in social media, it’s the norm.

Has the reader changed or the media platform? I’d say they go hand in hand. Today, our generation sets up dates via text, RSVPs for parties via Facebook invitations, and gets news clips via Twitter feeds. We are bombarded by brands, logos, marketing messages, and companies who claim they understand us. Everyone’s a publisher, and there is an endless mountain of information and news to sift through in less time. We want our information in bites, with imagery to make it easier and more effective for us to process and comprehend. If a headline is over 140 characters, it is deemed long-winded.

In the marketing and business world, there are a few issues. Many marketing execs who have the authority to make decisions on social media strategy, resourcing, and direction are in the don’t-quite-get-it camp. Want to know if you’re one of them? Unless you’re a blogger yourself—and successful at it for that matter—and participate in social media on a regular basis, you likely don’t get it. Thus, you should enable the ones who do get it to make those decisions.

At the other extreme, there is an emergence of social media “experts” who claim they have the next social media solution that can save the day. Reality check. Social media is one form of engaging, participating in the dialogue, and building a community and following. It is one part of the marketing pie, and how big that slice is depends on the nature of your business and your objectives.

In conclusion, if you’re a company that's riding on the social media bandwagon, make sure you have the people in place who have the creativity, the understanding of new media, and a voice and tone that is relatable and inviting to a broad audience. If you’re an individual trying to gain a following, make sure you have a personality behind your brand. That brand must be personable and relatable, and there should be value that you provide to your audience. Even though publishing a message to the world is as simple as the click of a button, always ask yourself if what you’re about to publish will give value to your audience or if it’s just polluting the digital universe.

Amy Chan is a marketing strategist who lives in Vancouver.




Mar 9, 2010 at 4:22pm

Pretty sure Google Buzz was slated for nothing more than to be forgotten the day after it launched.


Mar 9, 2010 at 4:23pm

Very well-written, sage advice.

Jesse Bannister

Mar 9, 2010 at 4:26pm

wicked article. social media experts irk me. its so one dimensional.


Mar 9, 2010 at 4:56pm

Thank you for writing this. Many people often claim that Social Media is a fad and don't feel like bothering with it. Mistake. Others claim to be experts and yet don't get it on the level they need to in order to be an expert. These snake oil salesmen are also making a huge mistake. It's frustrating to see so many companies out there doing a half assed "toes wet" version of SM and writing it off due to lack of results. I doubt this article will change things much, but if it helps one more person to get it then it was worth it.



Serge Labelle

Mar 9, 2010 at 6:10pm

Is SM becoming a new way to broadcast our beautiful self?

Everyone is broadcasting themselves writing on Social Media, calling themselves communication expert or "gurus". They write articles, blogs, posts and forget one major principle: "Ask a question first (and shut up), listen, start a conversation (not a monologue), engage.

Engage means hand holding during the process. Like coaching. This way you make it last. You write something and you have no or few comments? Why? You didn't ask a question. You have many comments? Take at least the time to comment back and ask another question. E-n-g-a-g-e.

Other than that, you are only broadcasting your beautiful self.

I have been spending the last month on Google buzz. Same thing. All the techies, SM "gurus" broadcasting their 12 twitts in a row about the "new" products or services.

Regarding language I differ from you. English is the main language on the internet and it's not everyone's language (like me). As long the content is valuable and it encourages a conversation, it's all good for me. I am not there to learn English literature and we have to show some latitude toward people who probably have more difficulty to express themselves but surely have something great to share and start a conversation.

Regarding Twitter, well I think it will go soon. No conversation here, only broadcasting. Watch carefully when you look at someone's Twitter. How many followers vs following? If you have someone who has equal followers vs following you better wonder if they are not just petting each others back.

Do we want to be Dale Carnegie or Ogilvy?

Thank you for sharing.

Serge Labelle

Peter Mansfield

Mar 10, 2010 at 7:54am

Brilliant comment S.L.
I want to be Dale Carnegie.

Tired of those self-proclaimed gurus and marketing specialists that write those articles and comment back (or not) 72hrs later.

When you write to an audience about Social Media, it's your professional responsibility to follow-up every day and create a conversation. Other than that, what you are saying as no relevance and you are only "broadcasting your beautiful self". You have to be congruent regarding what you write and what you do.

Regarding Twitter, I love to use it but I think you opened our eyes when you talked about the ratio "followers vs following". It reached a point where it's almost incestuous.

Thank you for asking and listening, so we can converse.

P. Mansfield
Victoria, B.C.

Serge Labelle

Mar 11, 2010 at 6:36am

Thank you for your comment P.

I agree with the responsibility but don't be too harsh. It will come.

I am not saying that Twitter is completely useless (well...) but it's real virtual pollution and real interruption marketing when someone twit and the only thing they are looking for is approval.

We are going to evolve from Me 2.0 to We 3.0 and create real conversation and the real wisdom of the crowd will prevail.

I was on buzz this morning and spent most of my time "muting" those twits because no one is asking me a question...

Merci for the conversation.

Serge Labelle

James Laitinen

Apr 1, 2010 at 12:50am

I have to disagree, with the concept that anything online is a bandwagon or that people don't get social media. I believe that every business owner is smart enough to grasp the concept, but don't want to waste the time, effort or resources on something that really doesn't matter. People talk about being left behind if you "don't join now" and really that makes no sense. In a business setting, the consumer has changed that is a fundamental fact that the recession brought on, together with technology annoying the hell out of people it only exacerbates the problem.

People don't get social media, because there is nothing to get. You have a free online service that lets a group of people connect in a variety of ways. These are website services, that you post your own information on for their benefit driving traffic, advertising dollars through their website.

What people need to start doing is starting with their business plan and fundamentally addressing their business. Then having a marketing plan in place to execute and deliver on, and then have a communications strategy to utilize the right tools for their intended purpose. Last, have a proper social media policy that gives the freedom to those in the organization to use this as a business tool to connect with people.

If people like you and find you interesting, then the medium will serve you well. If you are boring, uninteresting, don't have anything of value to offer then its not really going to do anything for you at all and be a waste of time.

At the end of the day, the small fraction of people using social media are the ones creating the noise. 7% of people are twitter are responsible for 76% of the tweets. Talk is cheap, and social media prooves that.