Social Media

Five Platitudes That Aren’t Social Media Advice

Social media marketing is difficult.  It is.  Every campaign I’ve ever been a part of has had a unique set of challenges to overcome.  Occasionally, there’s a general lesson that can be learned from one campaign that can be applied to others, but there is rarely any one-size-fits-all piece of advice that will make or break social media success.

So when I’m writing a social media advice column, the challenge becomes a choice: specific actionable advice for few; Or general (less helpful) advice for many.  Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of fluff out there that focuses on the latter.  General truths framed as advice:  Platitudes.  And while I might even be guilty of repeating one or two of these myself, the following 5 statements, while perhaps true, aren’t all that helpful for social media marketers.

Engage

This might be the most common single word piece of advice that comes from social media marketers.  It’s the John Madden version of social media advice: it’s 100% right, and so blatantly obvious, it hardly needs to be said.

The problem is, what most companies struggle with isn’t understanding that they need to engage potential and current customers, it’s HOW to.  Depending on the company,  market demographics, campaign goals, and a number of other factors “engaging” could mean a wide variety of things.  In fact, some of the most successful social media campaigns invented their own way to “engage” their customers.

If you’re seeking social media advice for a campaign, and engaging customers isn’t already a part of your strategy, then you need stop and to go back to the drawing board.  In fact, perhaps you need to question why you’re using SOCIAL media as a marketing medium at all… Just a thought.

Telling companies to “engage” their customers for social media marketing success is like saying a football team needs to score points to win.  It isn’t advice, it’s required.

Content is King

Remember when you got sick of hearing this about SEO?  I do.  And I’ll admit: I’ve even said it a few times too!  But at least with SEO, this statement had a foundation for all search engines.  With social media, “content” can mean a great many things which can vary drastically depending on the platform.

Sure, a social media marketing campaign without content isn’t all that much of a campaign.  But not ALL social media marketing needs to be based on rich, engaging, and/or potentially viral content.  For some companies, “social media marketing” can be limited to customer interaction & networking on Twitter, or perhaps include a moderate content strategy and still reach its goals.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to downplay the impact of what great content can bring to a social media marketing campaign.  I’m NOT saying content isn’t important.  It’s just that you can repeat a phrase so much before it starts to lose all meaning; And I’m not sure it ever had one in this case.

Join the Conversation

Like the word “engage” this is one of the more common phrases associated with social media marketing, and it’s equally as ground breaking.  Suddenly hearing or reading these words won’t set off any light bulbs.  Instead, they’ll remind you of what social media marketing is intended for in the first place: being social.

“Join the conversation” (as an idea) might sum up social media marketing into a nicely packaged 3 word phrase, but it’s not advice:  it’s a sales pitch.

Better Products = Social Media icon smile Five Platitudes That Arent Social Media Advice

You can’t argue with the logic: great products get talked about.  (Well, so do terrible ones, just not in the way you’d want.)  The problem is, this isn’t social media advice.  It isn’t even really business advice.  It’s common sense.

So get on that, will you?  Jeez.

Companies don’t develop deliberately inferior products, and I’ve yet to hear of a company that determined the quality of their product based on the potential success of their social media marketing campaign.  It just doesn’t work that way.  By the time most marketing departments become involved, a product is set.  And in the rare cases marketing people do have input, it has less to do with the quality of the product as much as the marketability of features, options, flavors, etc.

As a social media marketer, I’ve never had any kind of input in the development stages of my clients’ products.  And if I could pick and choose my clients, I’d go with the brands that have the most to offer their customers.  Every time.  But if I went to any of my current clients and said: “develop a better product and we’ll see more social media success” without something very specific (and realistic) in mind, it’d more than likely be the beginning to a very awkward conversation.

Another way people like to frame this as advice:  “Social media can’t save bad brands, it’ll only shine light on its flaws.”  No arguments here, but that statement has helped exactly ZERO companies develop a winning social media campaign.

Bad Customer Service = Social Media icon sad Five Platitudes That Arent Social Media Advice

This is great advice.  It really is.  To say customer service doesn’t matter from a social media perspective would be a lie.  The problem is, if a company gets to the point where their social media marketing team had to tell them this for it to click, it’s already too late.  That’s not to say things can’t turn around, but more times than not, with the case of poor customer service, your SMM team will be fighting an up-hill battle.  And this company might want to consider putting social media on the back burner while they focus on making their customers happy for a change.

The other side of this coin is the potential that truly remarkable customer service can bring.  If anything gets people talking about a brand beyond amazing products it’s a company that makes their customers feel loved.  But again, to do this for the sake of social media is to get it dreadfully wrong.  Great customer service worked for businesses long before there was a Facebook or Twitter and it will continue to work after they’re long gone (one can dream, right?).  Customer service should be for your CUSTOMERS.  So if only go out of your way to make them feel special just because you’d like them to recommend you to their Facebook friends, be prepared to be disappointed.

Did I miss any?

 Five Platitudes That Arent Social Media Advice

Todd Heim

Todd Heim is CEO, co-founder, and SEO manager of Essential Internet Marketing, LLC, an SEM and Social Media Marketing company based in Albany, NY.

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8 thoughts on “Five Platitudes That Aren’t Social Media Advice

  1. Some decent pointers thanx for stating them… just one point I would like to bring to your attention: REMEMBER CONTENT IS KING! :-) lol sweet looking foward to the next one

  2. Interesting take on things. It’s all about content and customer service. Every company has the same line, “LIKE us on Facebook” and my question is always, “WHY?” What do you as a company offer me to make me want to LIKE you versus your competiion? You need to offer to consumer a good reason, whether it’s unique information, a unique promotion, something Special.
    And with customer service, quick story. I have a Samsung Blu-Ray. Was having major issues and their phone service sucks. Got online, posted something to their Facebook and within 20 minutes heard back from them. They fixed my problem. Integrate the customer service department with the social media department and make your company responsive to your customer.

    1. Marcus (if that IS your real name) – I agree completely with the “Like us on Facebook” thing. If your customers are going to do something social media-related (Follow, Like, Tweet, comment, etc.), then they’re going to do it of their own free will because of how they feel about the product, service, brand, etc. Not because of some stock call to action that the design or content team stuck up next to their embedded Facebook or Twitter buttons out of fear of “just leaving them there.” I can just see the conversation at most large organizations:
      “Okay, we added Facebook and Twitter buttons to our home page.”
      “Like, just stuck them up there?”
      “M-hmm, in a conspicuous, but not obtrusive space.”
      “Just sitting there?”
      “Yes…?”
      “Are there any instructions for what to do?”
      “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? If the viewer likes us and wants to follow us on Twitter, they’ll do it.”
      “Well…I don’t know…maybe we should just put a call to action or something, to kind of remind them…”
      *sarcasm* “What, like ‘Like us on Facebook!’?”
      “That’s perfect!”
      “No, I was kid–”
      “Do it! That’s it. I’ve heard enough!”

  3. I agree that content is the king. If content is poor social media could not benefit the shared content, link, or community. Your content should be genuine and original.

  4. It definitely becomes more and more challenging each day as new start ups enter the tech space and change the playing field. I think that is part of the challenge when it comes to social media if you are not accepting to a dynamic landscape.

  5. One of the reasons it is so hard to give specific advice for social media marketing is because each networking site has its own set of users, its own set of rules and set of expectations. How consumers interact on Twitter is very different from Facebook or a blog. Companies have to adapt their brand and messaging to fit into the mold of each site and that can be tricky sometimes.

  6. Hi there.
    A grate post, i was searching for some platitudes. I found this article on google, i’ve read it and i’m glad that i found it. I found just what i was nedeed.Thanks a lot.