If I still had hair, I’d have pulled it out by now. The number of absurd claims made by so-called social media “experts” is at once astounding and infuriating. I’ve seen such remarks as “You know, you can use Facebook to …” and “You could use Twitter to …” What’s in short supply from many social media advocates is not ideas – rather, it’s experience.
Much of my frustration is that of a contrarian, and I expect it. I know that my views on social media marketing don’t align with the conventional wisdom, such as it is. I’m glad that there’s a healthy debate, as this is what gets the best and most effective ideas out into the marketplace. The debate is a first step to driving ROI, and I’m definitely in favor of anything that translates to returns, even if indirectly.
The noise out in the marketplace, though, is worthless. It may be worthless, actually, as it has the potential to destroy value.
Many companies are still taking their first steps into social media marketing. They aren’t sure what they should be doing, or how much capital they should commit. It’s difficult to make choices in a crowded marketplace that doesn’t have clear leaders (because it isn’t mature yet). So, we’re left to a cumbersome research process that takes even more time and expense, and risk remains high.
There is a simple way, fortunately, for corporate marketers to cut through the BS and make intelligent choices. Before looking at ideas, check out a potential vendor’s or agency’s experience.
In other words, ignore “you could” for a while, and see what these people have to say about “I did.”
If a social media expert or agency starts a pitch with claims of group-hug-community-management or “dialogue with your customers” (two of my favorites), send them packing. Lofty discussion about potential often stays there. Sure, you want to talk to a person or company who understands social media and has interesting, innovative ideas, but you also want to check for a track record.
It’s crucial that you work with service providers who can back up their claims. If they say they can get you 50,000 followers, don’t just ask how. Ask to see for whom they have done it. Case studies are nice, but you want some real details. Don’t settle for broad strokes … after all, you’re the one spending the money (and justifying the expenditure to your boss).
There are plenty of people who will trumpet the following:
- 600 million users on Facebook
- 200 million users on Twitter
- 100 million users on LinkedIn
- The value of going “viral”
- How “old media” is dead (or at least dying)
- How you can engage with your customers directly
- How friends tell friends about things, and how this could drive revenue
Ignore all of it. That sort of talk is a waste of your time and a waste of the breathable air available to the rest of us. Seriously, kick those people out and spend the hour you’ve set aside for them watching paint dry. You’ll be better off.
Instead, these are the sorts of questions you should ask:
- How many people in my target market are among the 600 million users on Facebook?
- How many people in my target market are among the 200 million users on Twitter?
- How many people in my target market are among the 100 million users on LinkedIn
- How can you help make my content go “viral”? Is this really the best way to promote my company?
- What are the returns your company has helped generate relative to commensurate investments in “old media”?
- What programs have you implemented to facilitate customer engagement … and what were the financial results?
- What programs have you implemented to drive friend-to-friend engagement … and what were the financial results?
And these are the demands you should make:
- Show me successful campaigns you have run on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
- Show me your client list, and let me choose which ones to talk to
- Show me what you have done for companies like mine
- Show me, show me, show me!
The days of “could” and “potential” are over. We know social media is big. We know that you can reach a lot of people that way. And we broadly know how. If you’re looking to take your company into the social media marketing world, it’s time to ask for specific results. Skip faith, and demand facts.
Hey, it’s time to put up or shut up. And, it’s your right to make your agencies and experts live by this!