Social Media Gurus have lied to you…now what?

Since the appearance of Social Media, and the relative empowerment of the consumer, we’ve been trying to tell marketers they can have visibility for free.
Just like magic…
In 2006, we witnessed the emergence of the expression “Viral video” which, at the time basically meant: “upload a funny “home-made” (read: low-budget) video on Youtubeand you’re done – just sit and wait for success to come your way.
Well, reality is far from this candyland world.
Then, we saw the rise of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so many other social networks.They all tried to tell marketers that it was all about “earned media” – visibility for free,without any effort.
Take a 23/24 YO – isn’t he supposed to be a digital native and therefore a natural community manager?
And since this year, you can read everywhere that Earned Media is dead, that Facebook’s Edgerank for brands is almost 0… Oh, and by the way, Facebook may soondisappear and Twitter will never spread to John and Jane Doe… In others words, it’s all been a big misunderstanding.
Sorry about that, hope you enjoyed your journey…
It is very interesting to see the various reactions from marketers.  They range from “I knew it – television rules and always will”, to people crying because they’ve spent so much money, just to be able to tell their boss they have x number of  fans.
Maybe it’s time to take a break and see what this is all about.


What is going on in the social media sphere?

First, the good news is that even if the rules of the game are evolving, they haven’t fundamentally changed.
Yes, the web is social and yes, consumers are empowered and able to share (or not) your content and finally yes, they will probably do so from their smartphone.
Yes, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are trying to generate some cash, selling you the access to your “fans” and giving you very limited free access to them.


Yes, the social web is shrinking through mergers & acquisitions, and every week there are articles on Facebook, Google and Twitter buying into the social media sphere, especially now with data crushing and analysis.
No, Facebook isn’t dead and remains the preferred platform.  But it is realistic to say that the Millenium Gen does prefer photo & chat networks (guess why Facebook bought Instagram and What’s App…?).
No, Twitter will hardly become a platform that everybody will eventually use.  But active users (meaning, not the majority) are very interesting, and most of them will tell you that Twitter is their favorite platform.
Yes, as the Forrester study points out, Google Plus is used more and more (really) and generates more interactions than Twitter.



The Rules of the Game

Ok, this is not Game of Thrones but still there are some rules you shouldn’t forget.

1. You don’t have a “brand community” or “fans”

Let’s be clear about this;  “brand community” and “fans” are only words that Facebook used to help you to understand what it was about, and to tease you.  Any marketer lovesthe idea of having a community based on fans.  But a community is built around strong values.
Many marketers can’t even identify the initial values of the brand they are working for.
How do you expect to build a community around you, when you don’t even know who you really are?
But most brands simply can’t build a community around themselves anyway…
However, some can, and Harley Davidson still remains the best example of this.  It is much more than a motorbike ; it’s a set of values that you buy along with the bike.
It took the brand a decade to successfully accomplish this… Are you ready to wait that long and work hard?
At best, a brand has enthusiasts, and everything depends how you’ve won them over.
Here’s a simple trick to find out if you really have a community.  If your Facebook page was crushed tomorrow, for whatever reason, would you naturally get all of your fans to migrate to another space?
Now, picture losing your personal smartphone.  Would you still have all of your friends,or you would have to throw parties to lure them back?
In reality, the communication tool doesn’t matter much, whether it’s Facebook or your phone… It’s the relationship that matters.
You’ve probably noticed that most of the social media users hate seeing brands on these networks, originally conceived to connect with friends.
This is also why the edgerank for brands is decreasing ; users simply flee Facebook when there are too many brands .
In a very recent study by Kentico, 68% of American social media users say that they simply ignore brands on social media.


2. It is smarter (and easier) to integrate vertical communities.

The web is a structure with multiple vertical communities (understand specific subject).  Brands should be humble when approaching the web and trying to integrate some of them.  This means respecting the specific codes for each community, helping people to meet in real life – in short, to become a member.
It is not as sexy as having a “brand community”, but it’s far more efficient.  This alsomeans searching beyond your natural community (guess what, not only fashionistaswear perfume, for example…).
None of this is new, it’s just a question of perspective…


3. Consumers don’t trust you

Most brands simply reproduce their website on Facebook and believe that this will magically change everything.  Uh, no…
An Adobe study reveals that only 2% of Americans trust the information present on the social web.
Forrester found the same figures.


4. You’re not going to find new customers on the social web

As Augie Ray explains in this excellent article, it is now very clear that, with the exception of certain aspirational brands, your fans are already your consumers and expect to get something in return for being a fan.
This is linked to the fact that they became a fan thanks to some promotional offer.
A study from L2 on 250 prestige brands, conducted over 4 years, showed that the selected brands had acquired 0.25% new consumers through Facebook, in comparison with 10% through searches and 7% through emailing.


So how should you integrate the social web into your strategy?

After reading these lines, you might think that the social web is useless for your brand.
But this is not true and to be honest, you don’t really have a choice.  The web has profoundly changed the way we market things.  It would be dangerous not to integrate it into your global strategy.
How should you do so?
First, you should accept that nobody pays any attention to your content/app/product, ifit’s brand-focused (which it is, 99% of the time). But also:

1 Change your mindset

In my opinion, digital is really a question of mindset.
Change the relationship that you have with your consumers. (This isn’t a dirty word – the consumer isn’t always wrong and no, he isn’t loyal).  But also understand that the social web wasn’t structured to connect brands and consumers in the first place.
Comprehend that marketing initiatives, based on a new innovations and launched every2 weeks just to boost your market, aren’t going to work anymore….
Customers are not stupid machines waiting to swallow your lies.

2. Go back to basics

It seems simple and stupid, and perhaps it is.  But digital forces you to go back to what your brand is really about.  What is your brand’s mission? What are its values?
If you don’t know this, it’s impossible to build anything, digital or otherwise.
The objective on the social web is not to improve the brand’s visibility through hype,but to modify its perception, to bring proof of the mission, and to participate, at the veryleast.


3. Listen, listen, listen

This can never be said enough times… The value of 1 million fans lies in the 1 million potential
The social web is mostly about listening
Billions of people are sharing things every day, and all this information is available for your analysis.
Sometimes, someone will even mention your brand.  But for example, analysing what your target group is pinning these days might help you to understand their needs and desires.
Needless to say, most of the mentions are useless from a business perspective.  But taking into consideration the one that might be operationally actionable couldthoroughly modify the efficiency of your products & services.


4. Build a relationship

Sure, you’ve read it a million times… But in 2014, so many marketers are still counting how many fans they have and consider this a KPi, when they should be focusing on the relationship.
When you meet someone, do you judge him based on the number of friends he/she has on Facebook?
So why would you do that for a brand?
Building a true relationship with a very small audience may prove much more relevant than with millions of fans you’ve acquired through promotions.
This implies meeting in real life, being relatively transparent, being involved and trying to help.
The right KPi remains the Net Promoter Score.

 To be honest, if the so-called “social media gurus” have lied to you, it is also because you wanted to believe them.   I really hope that this era of useless content that nobody remembers is coming to an end.
True, this does complicated things slightly.  But it makes them far more interesting too.

gregfromparisAuteur: Grégory Pouy
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