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Social Media Won’t Save the Day

Whoooooosh

Hear that? It’s the sound of dollars, tons of dollars, being shifted from old, traditional (boring) advertising and marketing channels towards social media. Oh how sweet it is.

A couple years ago (2007 – 2008ish) if felt like those who “got it” were in the small minority. Then, things started to change. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and eventually platforms like Pinterest, Foursquare, and Instagram, became household names. Today it’s as if everyone (save for a few ignorant holdouts) wants a part of the action. There isn’t an executive Fortune 500 marketing or PR team on the planet that hasn’t been briefed on the topic. Almost overnight it’s as if every other television and billboard ad has a #hashtag stamped onto it, like a sort of self proclaimed badge of honor. A number of companies, big and small, are finding incredible success, while others are still floundering. That’s just business, but hey at least there’s a clear sign of effort and investment.

So this is it – Social Media Has Had the Last Laugh?

Not quite…

Just being in social isn’t enough. It never was, but now the truth has become blatantly obvious. There’s too many credible examples to ignore, ex: General Motors struggles, while Ford continues to execute at a high level.

It’s the same story for small business and startups alike. I’d need more than two hands to count the number of local restaurants in Seattle that I’ve come across who are using social media, but are 100% clueless when it comes to strategy. I’m in a nice mood today so I won’t name any of the embarrassing examples, but on the reverse I can give huge credit to places such as Taco Time (300+ locations) and Canlis (just 1 location, but famous for their use of social media) who are doing great work.

Difficulty and Deception

Anyone can get in the game, but delivering positive ROI to justify considerable investment is tough, real tough, with social. If I sound like a naysayer, it’s because, well… I am one. I’m not a skeptic, because it can work, however there’s still a strong majority of marketers, both newbs and veterans – traditional and digital practitioners alike, who have grossly underestimated what it takes to excel.

My advice? Be active in social, put a little Facebook URL on your business cards, rally up some type of online following, etc… do whatever you think you need to do.

But if that’s not enough, as in you’d like to use social media to meet a real business objective and aren’t satisfied with playing on the level of the majority, be mindful that to find success it’s going to take a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, and a hell of a lot of patience. Social media won’t save you or your business, but put in the effort, give it some considerable thought, and your chances of making it worthwhile are much greater than just shooting from the hip and being active just because everyone else is.

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