Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fail whale

Much has been written on the transformational power of social media and its groundbreaking successes. We often read of the massive boost to followers, friends and, ultimately, sales, that mark a truly engaging campaign that crosses and merges platforms. Even social media fluffs can make headline news and still manage to reach a huge audience. What we rarely hear of, however, are the ones left behind - the stragglers who never seem to get off the ground in this new digital world.

A great social media campaign can't spring to life simply because you have signed up to Twitter and uploaded a YouTube video. It is easy to think that social networks, because they are free to join and use, require little material or financial investment. Far from it. Unlike traditional advertising, which is placed before the viewer, social media relies on the 'viewer' to take a far more active role. You are looking for conversation, engagement and buzz. Here are my Top 5 elements which can make or break a social media campaign.

1/ Brand. No matter whether you are an individual, a small company or a global brand, it is vital that you are "joined up" across platforms. From Flickr to Facebook, the way you look, speak and communicate needs to be recognisable, so that no matter where people 'meet' you, they know it's you.

2/ Investment. Creating a Facebook page for your company may be free but ensuring it is well-managed and regularly updated takes carefully dedicated resource. Finding social media professionals who know what they're doing and can authentically become the voice of the brand is key. That's why there's little point in spending thousands on a super-hot, ultra-branded website and then leaving your intern to look after Twitter.

3/ Content pt1. Engagement is built on relationships. Like any friendship, you start out finding out what you have in common. Think about who you are trying to connect with and work out what will draw them in. Become a "go-to" place for the latest updates in your industry, or a unique voice on the state of the sector. Be selective about what keywords you are using to ensure you are search-tastic, and start a dialogue with those already doing it well in your area.

4/ Content pt2. Be appropriate. No, I don't mean laying off the curse words, although that's also recommended. Be conscious of what content you generate for each platform. Social Media users are like shoals of fish, you just need to guide them in the right direction. On Twitter it's about persuading someone to click a link in 140 characters. On Facebook it's about being liked. And on YouTube it's about being too good to keep to yourself. Copywriters, producers, editors... they're your new best friends!

5/ Holism. Nothing and noone exists in isolation. At least, noone with a decent internet connection. Striding into a room saying 'we need to be on Foursquare' will make you sound important, but it won't necessarily make you rich. Stride in saying 'My restaurant is choc full of people on dates, how can we make the most of this?', however, and it's time to start paying more tax. Suddenly you're inviting singles on Twitter to check-in via Foursquare and connect with other singles in your restaurant. Next thing you know you're sorting out a Facebook page dedicated to your hub of hook ups. And before you can say "poke me" you've got a YouTube channel full of love stories. Make each platform work for your audience and they'll work for you.

...Contrary to popular belief, it's not easy. Social media takes time and hard work but, if your product is good and you know your audience, there's really no reason why it can't be an integral part of your business.