Thursday, August 26, 2010

Running with Social Media Scissors

When we're little, we hear all sorts of warnings and advice about caution.  We're told to look both ways before we cross the street.  We hear that we don't dive in the shallow end of the pool.  We're taught the proper way to carry scissors and we're told to not run with scissors in our hands.  We'll trip if we don't tie our shoelaces.  The list is endless.

In my last post, I bemoaned the seeming lack of strategy and the sheer panic that many of us are feeling about not doing the right social media thing much like a 20 something reading Cosmo and hoping that if she cut her hair "just so" or got a boob job, the cute boy across the way will give her a wink and a smile.  It sometimes feels like we have to dive in the shallow end of the pool just to catch up.

It's not the first time that I've brought up the existential question of why we're on these platforms.  As I said last time, I love Mitch Joel's call for calm, call for us to take a deep breath, call for us to look around and try to understand where we are and how to navigate.  It's okay for us to assess the platforms and decide that there are some that just aren't relevant.  Mitch Joel was telling us to look both ways before we cross the Social Media street.

Really, it's okay to map out a strategy.  And yet we fail to do so.  Jim Matorin left a comment in that last post and shared this article.  I'll cull out some of the numbers from the Digital Marketing Expressions:
  • Of the 78% who said they were using social media, only 41% had a social media strategic plan.  
  • Of the 41% who do have a strategy, 94% said marketing was a part of the plan, 71% said public relations and 55% said sales.  
  • Of those with a plan, 29% had communication protocols (when, where, how, etc.). 
  • Only 69% of those with a social media plan have metrics or some sort of tracking set up and 71% plan for tracking brand reputation online.  
All of these numbers tell me that we're doing a lot of acting without a lot of thinking.  The pressure of being the hottest person in the room has made us forget ourselves and what makes us tick  It's made us forget how and why our products/services meet the needs of our customers better than that of our competitors.

I find all of this whirlwind of activity confusing.  We rush to be first, best, prettiest, etc., without a roadmap and without an end state in mind.  And, at the same time, we complain that we don't know what the ROI is of all of these Social Media activities.  There are a million whitepapers and webinars out there about ROI but few about strategy.  We can't have our proverbial cake and eat it too.  If you are jumping in without thinking and strategizing then you can't get upset that you don't know how to measure it effectively if at all.

The ROI problem is largely our own making because we feel we don't have the time to build the infrastructure.  We feel we'll be left behind.  This takes me back to this post I wrote 5 months ago.  Here's the quote I mentioned then:

"Maybe what's missing in our marketing transformation is the really boring and basic stuff. Maybe dull drives digital. Maybe fundamentals face us forward. Maybe boring is breakthrough.

I call this out for good reason. Social media and digital marketing will only succeed -- and sell through the organizational layers -- if we ground it in deeper, more established marketing truths, not ephemeral campaigns, one-trick pony moments, or hypocritical oaths or proclamations."

Creating strategy can be an arduous and dull process sometimes.  You don't have to tell me because that's preaching to the choir.  But, not having a strategy and rushing forth is running with scissors.  If we know to exercise that caution to protect ourselves in real life, why don't we have that level of care for our businesses?  Why do we throw caution to the wind?


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. Thanks Parissa. I also think there's something to be said for diving in and grabbing hold of something.
    I'm not advocating my brother-in-law's "if you're not living life on the edge, you're taking up too much space" approach, but energy is created from throwing out a challenge to a team who's never had to deal with a foreign concept... like social media.
    If this energy is harnessed and channeled (strategy) then I think you get the both worlds; a 'first-in' leadership position, and validation of why you'll stay in the space.
    I think too often, firms watch and wait until all the facts are gathered, and by then they've neglected to tap into the benefits brought by the excitement.

  2. Thanks for your great comment... Much appreciated! I completely agree with you that we can't be on the opposite end of the spectrum either. Truly, any business opportunity is a cocktail of leap of faith, energy and planning in some sort of lovely balance. What I'm most worried about is the lack of balance. Thank you for clarifying!

  3. Thanks - and for the cautionary note at the end of the Groupon post! Keep positing and posting, and I'll keep reading Parissa!