In January, February and March I spent a lot of time in coffee-shops trawling through want-ads – it sparked a little rant. Don’t hold me to any of this if you disagree. Love you… 😉
They call the work, the ideas, ‘offerings’ – as if the clients and users are greedy little idols with short attentions spans. Oh, wait, maybe that describes them perfectly. Except I don’t know if it does – it feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy, but one that can be reversed, and how many times do you get a second chance to make a first impression? Not many.
Trawling through pages and pages of want ads for positions in social media, it’s incredible to see how many of them are tied to sales positions – as if social media were a simple replacement for a billboard or a page in a magazine. It speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of the medium and how it really works. I know, many of the people designing these new positions probably don’t even use social media much: I remember working for an online company that chose to rely on platforms like Twitter and Facebook to increase sales: not one (yes, not even one) of the developers appeared to use either platform in a personal capacity at all. There were 2 of us who were active online and we managed to raise their FB footprint to over 300K followers before we left, but I can’t tell you how many of those follows equalled sales.
Maybe it would help to see it from another angle: how many times have you ever engaged in any kind of conversation with a billboard or a magazine ad? For most of us the answer is: never. They aren’t social media, they’re one dimensional presentations of information to show you the seller’s wares – like signs, they are a statement, a rhetorical question that can’t be engaged.
What equates to this in our era of cyber media? A website. Your website is your magazine, your billboard – with the added responsibilities of being your reception area, virtual show-room and your switchboard (the ‘contact us’ button – possibly the only way for a customer/user to reach you now).
So what is social media if we’re using this model? Here’s where it becomes a little complicated: we’ve never really been here before, so I could say that social media is a bit like an amalgamation of a sandwich board (sign worn by an actual person who can answer a question, if needs be), a street representative handing out brochures or cards (who can answer a question), the public relations person you send to high-end conventions and trade fairs to speak for you (who can answer questions), your customer complaints department (whose job it is to answer questions) and at least one line on your switchboard where people can call in to get questions answered.
Anyone seeing a pattern? Engagement. And not the sort that we might understand today: on Twitter or FB you run into a room and shout something, then leave. Or you talk exclusively to 20 people who look/think exactly like you. No, actual give-and-take engagement means you read other peoples’ tweets and comment on other sites’ Facebook pages. And a real understanding of your business so that questions can be answered properly and complaints resolved quickly (and off-TL). Simply, it’s a full role and it has very little to do with sales, so lumping social media together with sales and giving it to a junior assistant means very little satisfaction for the customer, your company or the employee.
Talk about users, and this is all about niche. Want to reach those West Coast cyber-blitzers? There’s every chance that they still remain faithful to Reddit. How do I know this? I’ve never used Reddit, but links and threads from that platform appear on my timeline quite often, so that’s a pattern. Want to get more traction on your coconut oil product? You may have to wade into the weird world of anti-Monsanto conspiracy theory sites to find your primary buyers, and that takes a strong mind and some research time. I’m exaggerating a little here, but not much. Need to find moms? Go into advice/tip pages and you’ll find them all. This is not a thesis, just a bunch of thoughts over coffee and an almond croissant at Nero’s – and I’m not an expert. This is just – wait for it – anecdotal information based on my own observations, so feel free to ignore.