It seems that the social media industry has done such a good job on PR for itself, everyone feels like they should be doing it, and further more they are willing to put their hard earned money where their mouths are so that they don’t get left behind.

Coup Media who were featured in a blog from last week when I talked about this rush to social and its implications for Wales, are a great example of a company that’s never been busier helping businesses get online.

red7However, another agency Red 7 Marketing in Cowbridge had a particularly interesting insight I thought. Gareth Rhys Jones, principle at Red 7 and a fantastic marketing guy, tells me that most clients that want to go ‘social’ actually want him and his company to literally ‘do it’ for them.

Geoff and Gareth from Red 7

Geoff and Gareth from Red 7

Social Media is harder than it looks

Why employ someone else to do it? That doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m not talking about high level planning here, or SEO for which its entirely sensible to employ experts to aid you, I’m talking about  blog writing or Twitter, or running your Facebook page. The argument goes that a business employs an agency because they don’t have the resource to do it themselves.

But in my experience, its more likely that they don’t have the appetite to do it themselves.

Here’s the thing. Social media done badly is like every other type of marketing done badly. A waste of time and money. I’m not saying that companies like Red 7 and Coup Media shouldn’t be employed or are no good. Quite the reverse, I know both these guys and would not hesitate to recommend either.

But blogs that are written by people outside of your business and outsourced ‘broadcasting’ on Facebook or Twitter does not an effective campaign make.

Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should just jump in. Unless you can do it right.

And by ‘right’ I mean a properly thought out, resourced, planned and executed content based marketing strategy with proper measures of success built in that is integrated into the business from the top down. By all means use an agency to help you do this – In fact, if you are a more traditional business shall we say, I might even suggest an agency as an essential support for you. But unless you are going to become truly social don’t bother.

Sharing press releases with your long suffering fans on Facebook and not answering Tweets from customers is a fast way to p*** the very people off that you are attempting to connect with.

And I guess here’s the point. If you don’t WANT to connect, then don’t do social media. There are plenty of other marketing techniques you can successfully use without running the risk of looking stupid, or worse, messing up your brand.

Social Media may not be indicated

It might be the case that social media is not in fact the best solution for the problem that you are dealing with, or the market you are trading with.c3

Take the case of the brilliant Doctor of Chiropractic Rainer Weiser. Here we have an extremely successful business that is extremely well run.  Not only is he the only guy I’ve met that can fix my creaky back (!), he is also involved in every aspect of the small business that he runs, including, luckily for me, treating patients.

As we talked about marketing recently, I discovered that Rainer has more than 5000 opted in email addresses of existing and lapsed customers.

Social media may very well have a part to play for C3 Chiropractic in the future, but given the absolutely crazy work load Rainer has, it’s simply time prohibitive for him to ‘social’ his business up. Especially when he has a perfectly brilliant opportunity staring him in the face that he can quickly and easily take advantage of.

Getting to grips with his email list, cleansing his data and sending some simple ‘invitations to return’ to his lapsed customers would be an obvious quick and profitable win. In marketing, it always pays to keep it as simple as possible.

When Social Media is too complicated

There’s a fabulous coffee shop in Blackwood called Coffee Continental. Its one of those places that oozes quality and has a very engaged and very loyal customer base. So much so that the owner Esther and her husband are thinking of expanding.coffeecontinental

Esther, a natural marketer, is interested in how she can harness the power of the social web to help drive her business forward. But does she need too? At least right now?

Coffee is a pretty low involvement purchase right? Find a good coffee shop and you’ll quickly become a regular. But just how loyal would you be in face of a concerted effort from a competitor that wooed you away from your regular haunt with offers and discounts to encourage you to sample their product?

You could argue that a proper content led social media campaign is the ideal way to encourage loyalty from a fickle audience. But who is going to do it? In a business with such tight margins, and low levels of resource, employing someone just to do social media is a real luxury, as is employing an agency.

And like Rainer at C3 Chiropractic, the owners of Coffee Continental are working every hour to run the shop. So simply put, there isn’t anyone available to do it.

If implementing the ‘social’ strategy causes stretch and a lack of focus somewhere else where it might be crucial I would advocate staying away. If social media is an effort for your business,. it maybe isn’t the right effort to make, at least right now.

There are loads of well established ideas you can use to drive ‘trial business’ and build brand, without taking time away to write blogs or tweet about barista comings and goings! Things like BOGOF promotions  loyalty cards or if you want to get ‘with it’, how about a text campaign for all your opted in customers?

Maybe one day in the future, not being social might not be an option. I think for almost all business communicating and connecting with your clients in this way will be the norm not the exception. But there are some reasons to slow down the rush to socialisation.

What do you think? Am I right? Or would you suggest another route? Let me know in the comments below, or email me directly at [email protected]

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