Over the weekend just gone, I was a part of a strategy group setting out to build the marketing plan for an occasional client. There were several guest speakers, one an articulate and persuasive purveyor of what I regarded to be social media snake oil, and so a vigorous debate ensued.
His contention was that every business, particularly SME’s needed to be active on every major SM platform, and that a part of every employees job was to represent the interests of their employer on the various platforms.
Superficially that argument has some attraction, as an advocate of SM for SME’s, it is hard to argue against a proposition that SM is more available than traditional media, and that employees should be engaged and committed, or they ceased to be useful employees.
However, there are three very real arguments against the proposition, all of which I used.
- Not all social media platforms are equal, and they play vastly different roles, attracting users for different reasons, and in different situations. Individually, each platform is just a small piece of the SM pie, but if you try and consume the whole pie, all you get is indigestion. Much better to understand the pie, and go to where the goodies are hidden.
- Then I thought about the senior maintenance engineer who had worked in the business for many years. An enormously competent and committed bloke, and great in a group at the pub, but the owner of a left field sense of what is funny, sometimes even acceptable, and what is not. Encouraging him to be anywhere near the 140 characters of Twitter sends shivers down the spine, but I desperately want him to continue running maintenance
- The clincher, SM is not free, it consumes lots of the most valuable resource an SME has, time. The invoices may be lower than with traditional and paid media, but the commitment of time to do a good job is significant, and most often will attract consulting fees of some sort as SME’s fill the capability gap, which then offers the opportunity to be paying for snake oil, unless you are good at identifying the snakes.
The real management task is to have a very clear business purpose, supported by a few strategies that have evolved from understanding the business, its value proposition, customers, competitors, and operating environment, and making the choices that drive the priorities and resource allocation decisions. Social Media is a part of the mix, an important part, but you need to be putting round pegs in round holes of the right size, and not getting confused about which is what.