The economy is in the crappers, but you and I both know people aren’t going to give up their high-speed internet access. And more and more, agency folk (and client folk too), will wonder about this thing called social media that they’ve been hearing about. So, before anyone jumps in, consider this list of things to think about, from an agency perspective.
1. Set a goal.
No matter what it is in advertising, from a TV spot to in-store POP, marketing starts with a defined goal. (And the goal is never sell more product. If that’s the goal, tell the client to hire a salesperson). A goal is equally critical in social media. And since it won’t be the only marketing done, then you’ll want to wonder how it fits in with everything else? How will you tell people about it? Having a page on MySpace is nice, but how on earth will people hear about it? We could go on. In fact, this list of questions is getting so long that it’s worth just considering a brief.
2. It’s about sharing.
In what’s being called “The Second Law of Social Media”, Mark Zuckerberg thinks that the amount we’ll share online will double every year. Are you sharing more this year than last year? I am. It’s really easy to share, so people are going to do it. From videos on YouTube, to thoughts on blogs, to the minutia of life on Twitter. It’s really easy to share, so people will do it more often.
3. It’s not a fad.
This isn’t about Facebook, or Twitter, or a question of whether one or more of the tools will fail. They are businesses, and there’s a chance that a Facebook will go the way of Friendster (which is still out there, btw). But sharing isn’t a fad. And sharing online isn’t either. There might not be one place where marketers can go and take advantage of sharing, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away any time soon. Sharing is turning the web into a collaborative conversation. Tools will come and go. Sharing is here to stay.
4. A banner in a social network is enough.
No, it’s not. It’s not wrong to use banner ads, but that’s not social media. What Banana Republic did on LinkedIn is more like what agency’s should be thinking about. That’s advertising within the context of the network. Something that will get it noticed. Agency people are trained story tellers, but the story needs to be caressed, and molded. We still need to tell people about great things our clients have or will have. but we can do it in a more conversational way.
5. It’s a silo.
‘Fraid not. Social media should never act alone. There will be a major shift to creating social media agencies, people who specialize in just making Facebook pages and Facebook apps. There’s a risk in going down this road, and the risk is that all parts of a marketing plan should be part of the conversation. And I don’t mean the conversation between a brand and the consumer. I mean the united front the brand takes in all communication mediums. Social media is part of the toolbox. It’s a confusing and exciting part, but it’s only a part. Find an agency that thinks like that, or they’ll have you doing Facebook apps with no plan or goals, and no thought about the overall conversation.
6. It’s free.
It’s free to place a page on Facebook. It’s free to have a Twitter feed. However, the client needs to understand that while the media is free, the creation of the content ain’t. Thankfully, agencies are good at creating content. We can charge for this (and all the money is time, which is revenue). Start with a goal and it will be easier. Create a social media plan, and then charge to maintain it. Chances are good that if agencies don’t start this, someone else will.
7. We’re in control.
Nope, things are different now. This is called Share Marketing. If you ask customers to share, you have to prepared for the worst. Thus, you not only need a goal as to why you’re doing it, you should have a plan in place in case things get out of control. We had someone tell us our client was f-ing bad, and f-this, and f-that on their Facebook page. We deleted it, but addressed it by telling people that we’re more than willing to listen to people, and address their concerns, but they need to be polite about it.
8. Agencies can ignore Share Marketing.
No doubt they could. There are a number of good reasons to stay away from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, Yelp, Second Life, last.fm, Joost and the many other places online that are working to build a community of people. There are pros and cons to most of these, but without question, people are using these tools to talk about your client’s brand. If you don’t tell your client about it, and what you might do about the conversations, someone else will. (It even might be me).
9. Social Media is only for kids
“Fogeys Flock to Facebook”, BusinessWeek magazine says otherwise. And while this is about Facebook, it’s not a trend unique to Facebook. I know of a 66-year old man who just started using a computer. The first program he used was Skype. The next one just might be Yelp. People are using the tools because they work pretty well. Regardless of age.
10. You can’t measure it.
Wrong. If you have a goal, you can measure against that goal. If you simply start using a tool without a goal, then what would you measure anyway? But keep in mind, this isn’t magic. Some of these tools are more like Billboards than classic direct mail packages. You can’t perfectly measure a billboard, and you can’t perfectly measure sharing. But if it does work, then you have the chance to have something great.
I’ve convinced some clients to do some nibbling around the edges of social media. A Facebook page here, a Twitter feed there. But things will really explode in 09. Fact is, marketing budgets are drying up, but the client realizes that the conversations aren’t stopping. So they will turn to agencies to give them ideas about how to spend money in a more focused way.