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Loving Likes, and why I do not judge people who do.

February 5, 2012

What can we do with Social Media?

What can we do with Social Media? This is still the most asked question to which I have to give an answer as Head of Social Media for Media Contacts which is part of  the HAVAS Group in The Netherlands. Now, 6 months after I chose this new challenge, my hope for advancement in the lack of knowledge with our/my clients still surprises me. I understand it, and as a teacher I even cherish it,  but it also gets me thinking. Let me reflect on my online silence these last couple of months. These months helped me to understand how Media Agencies and its clients look upon Social Media, its value and its strength. Yes it’s true Madam/Sir, Social Media is way to communicate and no, it is definitely not the same as any other medium you are using. It’s not like TV or Radio, it’s 1-on-1 communication. It’s free, open and very scary. It is a collision of old and new marketing. Come and see, come and hear me, good people. It’s a world like no other, ever evolving and changing and yes, at the same time you still have to market the same products to the same consumers. As this ‘old’ video beneath this paragraph shows, it’s not that easy to really embrace your ‘online’ customer.

And oldie, but still good.

I have been in the Social Media “game” for almost 5 years now. And I have been busy with project management in online media for almost 7 years, and only one thing stayed the same throughout these years. Social Media does not get easier to understand for the clients. Not yet, at least (I still have hope 😉 ). Why, I wonder. I think the truth lies hidden in the constant development of the playing field, the blossoming urge for professionalism in Social Media and the change in perception of online media in general. In other words marketeers see that private becomes open, and personal becomes public even for companies. But this scares them, because this means that you have to talk to customer and really listen. Oh, you had not heard? Sorry my good man/ woman, wake up and smell the gasoline…it’s burning

It’s about more than likes?

Yes, it’s about more than likes. Why? Social Media should be the means and not the goal. So when you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and/or a YouTube channel it does not say anything about your company being social. It’s the content that has to be engaging, interesting and convincing and provided on a Social platform that connects you with your customer that makes you Social. The same goes for your Facebook ‘Likes’. Yes you are right, for all you “Old-Marketing” thinkers (who form at least 85% or more of all the marketers right now) ‘Likes’ are countable. It can be benchmarked. But every Social Media manager with a notion of Social Media could tell you it is a very fickle benchmark. What does 10.000 ‘likes’ mean, other than a pool of profiles and email accounts that you could target with your next product mailing? Exactly, it’s worth some coin, but not much else. No, it would be much more interesting to hear what people think of your products and services. To see how people interact and engage with your products, services and brands. That is exactly the reason why Facebook has created a new countable number: “People Who Are Talking About This”. A lot of so-called Social Media “Experts” “Gurus” and “Ninja’s” suggest that a combination of these two will explain the Social Media score of your company. Wrong!

Yes, the number of “People Who Are Talking About This” gives us an insight into the consumers interactions with your brand page, but again it does not say anything about the quality of these engagements and if you are part of them. I understand that quality is not quantity and therefore not easily quantifiable. But here lies the true hidden value of Social Media. The magic lies in the 1-on-1 interaction, to hear the voices of your consumers, making an effort to get themselves heard. This is also the explanation I give to the following question: is Social Media useful for the shop on the corner? That is the great thing about Social Media, that is why I love Social Media. It’s easy, instant and free to use. And even if you only have 10 loyal customers it can give you insight in how to become a better company, offer better service and create products that serves the needs of your customers even better.

Loving Likes, and why I do not judge people who do.

This title seems a bit in contradiction to my earlier paragraph, but I really do not judge people who feel the need to “Love Likes”. In the end, Social Media is used by a lot of marketeers for marketing, and who can blame them? You can use Social Media well, for marketing, even if more than 57% of Facebooker’s do not want this (Source: Exact target). All the marketers efforts provide me with a budget that in the end pays my bills. The amount of my clients who increased their Social Media marketing budget for 2012 cannot even be counted on two hands, so bless them. If I would be judgmental about the lack of knowledge or about them trusting numbers, I have chosen the wrong business. I understand that for most companies Social Media is solely used to sell more products. And every marketer I know thinks that this is the highest goal possible. They do not understand yet that spreading the Brand Story, adding content and a tone-of-voice to its company heritage and history provides consumers with content they like to connect to. Consumers like to embrace brand stories as their own, willing to spend more money on these brands and are already talking about the brands they like or dislike (Source: Exact target). This conversation is already going on, and only has to be read, and understood, to become a truly Social brand.

My Lessons these past 6 months

So for now, use your likes (even love them), I will give them to you and I will count them. But please bear in mind that this does not make your company any more Social than having an email database or an office full of people. It’s the engagement and interaction with customers that provides you with new opportunities and new insights.

Lesson 1: The customer is always right. I learned that thinking about Social Media and coming up with visions for the future for it is great, but at the same time it is nothing more than just that: a vision. And I discovered that real, profitable companies need real, profitable solutions, not visions. They need numbers and benchmarks, they need undeniable proof of ROI. They need to know were they are paying for. Do I think that is the right approach to a developing Social Media Strategy? No, but I am old and wise enough to understand that when paying, the client is king. This doesn’t mean that visions are not important, they are. They get us to the next level, only it takes us a couple of years to get there. I will guide them every step of the way with pleasure.

Lesson 2: I have a very busy job, and with that I hold a difficult position. I have to lead my clients by the hand (and hopefully a lot of new ones in 2012), step-by-step. I cannot force them to fully invest in Social Media right away. I need to show them why they should invest, why the hype is justified. But the coolest thing is, that I think that all of my clients will get there. Sure some sooner than others, but when they do, it will be all worth it. They will understand their customers better than any other company in their market. They will get them, and the customers will get their products and services.

Here is to the greatest job in the world: (*clink*) Cheers!

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