Get Your Head Out of the Sand

If you own a company that’s been reluctant to get into social media marketing, it’s time to look around and see what’s going on. There are probably several reasons why you haven’t taken the steps to get involved. But unless that reason is because you don’t have the resources to properly engage in social media, then it’s time to pull your head out of the sand.

Don’t Get Left Out of the Conversation

You might ignore sites like Flickr, YouTube, or TripAdvisor, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is going to.

A good chunk of your customers or potential customers are involved in social media in some way. They read blogs and reviews; upload photos to Yelp and TripAdvisor; and create their own blogs and vlogs to offer insights, tips, and reviews of companies, products, and services. Most importantly, they can do all of this without your permission.

Even if you don’t understand the concept of social media, you need to fully understand that you, as a company, are no longer totally in control of what’s being said about you. You also need to understand that your public relations team can no longer completely control what people say about you to the press.

Journalists have become ever more clever, and many are tapped into the online world of blogs and social networking sites. They no longer rely on the spin of a press release designed to make a glowing report of your newest venture. They want a balanced story and, in pursuit of that, they do searches and visit all kinds of social media sites to find the “other side” of the conversation.

Do you even know what is being talked about in those other conversations?

The problem with just leaving your public relations company or ad agency to “handle” your social media “issues” is that they aren’t you.

If you ran a microbrewery and your public relations, ad, or even SEO/PPC firm said “we’ll handle all your social media for you” and you think that’s a great idea, you might want to rethink that. How does a public relations agency know how to answer a question about how to make a certain flavor of your beers, or how long it has to ferment to get that right flavor? They don’t.

If they’re “tweeting” for you or “posting” for you in blog comments or forums and message boards, by the time they come back to you for the answer, that opportunity is lost. Plus, “ghost” anything (tweeting, posting, Facebooking) can get you into a whole bunch of trouble with your audience. It’s better that you plan for the resources needed within your organization to actually be involved in social media yourself.

Consumers Want to Connect

People love to share their experiences, passions, and memories with like-minded people. Social media provides the perfect conduit for creating those connections.

It can be anything from scrapbooking to kids’ food allergies. People are out there sharing their thoughts on what works, and what doesn’t.

Sometimes its brand-specific, other times it’s about a topic. Scrapbookers can talk about a certain brand of scissors, or about the best approach for attaching a certain kind of embellishment. It’s not always about a specific brand, but all the same, do you want to miss out on the opportunity to talk to those people?

Understanding that social media isn’t always about a brand is a huge disconnect for a lot of agencies, whether they’re public relations, ad, or SEO/PPC. While they focus on what’s being said about you, they totally miss out on the concept that it really isn’t about you it’s about the consumer and what they feel is of value.

Don’t Be Afraid of Social Media

Negative things can happen, whether or not you’re involved in social media. If you become an active participant in social media, and are transparent and upfront about why you’re involved, at least you’ll be prepared. When “bad” things happen, a lot of times the communities you have become involved with become your best advocates.

When bad situations arise, say a bad review on TripAdvisor, you have the opportunity to affect a lot more than just the person who wrote the review by addressing the negative review in a positive manner.

Plan a strategy around social media that involves your active engagement and participation. Get involved in those conversations that were going on while you were hiding your head in the sand.

It’s really not such a scary place. Once you get involved in social media, you’ll likely find this to be one of the most enjoyable parts of your day.

Submissions are now open for the 2009 Search Engine Watch Awards. Enter your company or campaign before July 17, 2009. Winners will be announced at SES San Jose.

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