Friday, January 15, 2010
In the debate on whether or not social media can be proven financially lucrative, I see a pattern emerging. It's not really Participation vs. Non-participation in Social Media. The real question is "Does our company really value customers and want to help them?"
It's Corporate Greed vs. Corporate Altruism.
Or frame it: Exploiting People vs. Helping People.
Some will resent this portrayal and say the demand for ROI is not greed, just smart business. "Why waste time Twittering or blogging, when the time could be better spent?" they'll whine. Meanwhile, smart competitors are establishing warm, human connections with customers and inspiring them to be enthusiastic and loyal.
People use social media, not to buy things, but to interact with other people. They're sharing insights, jokes, links, warnings, favorite songs, satire, scorn, confessions, questions, answers, political opinions, a wide variety of personal concerns.
Social media is your opportunity to establish things hard to define in dollars and cents. Things like Credibility. Friendliness. Expertise. Caring.
Social media is not an advertising or sales platform to exploit, though it can generate new customers and increased sales, if done correctly. Your company must be customer-centric, on social media to provide service, expertise, and occasional news about products and company activities.
Give tons of advice, handle complaints, listen to feedback, take note of suggestions, explain your side of a story -- and people will like you and will tolerate a few sales messages from you -- that's the magic of social media.
Social media is sometimes seen as a Get Rich Quick scheme, but more realistically, social media is Get Human Quick. Your company can face customers more intimately via social media, far more than via a typical corporate website, most of which are still boring fluffy We -oriented sludge.
The bottom line is this: many are called, but few are chosen.
All companies can benefit with social media, but few are willing to really help people.
Only businesses that truly value enhanced customer relations, and want to reach people where THEY are at, which is social media increasingly, will bother with implementing social media programs.
Altruism, what I call "unproductive interaction" (meaning non-commercial messaging) is the only way to succeed in social networks. What is social media altruism? It's being a regular guy or gal. Sharing the wisdom you have about your industry, the needs and problems of customers, and how they can solve them, without promoting your products all the time. Just general principles or how-to tips.
Why spend time on (mostly) non-commercial messaging in social media?
Because you want to differentiate your company as the company who cares. Most of your competitors provide lousy customer service, and rarely share their expertise without charging for it, as in a book or seminar.
Nobody joins an online community to receive spam, sales hype, or egocentric PR messages. But if your company provides tons of advice to people on Twitter or Facebook or in a corporate blog, people will think kindly and highly of you. You open their hearts to respect and like your company. They'll be more likely to listen to your sales messages because you use social media to help, not exploit, them.
If a company really cares about people, you won't have to twist their arm and present an ROI analysis to them to get them to provide their insights, service, answers, and solutions to interested parties.
I suspect that companies who "don't get" social media are merely old fashioned, stubborn, resistant to change and intelligent risk-taking.
The ROI HYPOCRISY and PARADOX:
It costs so little to engage in social media, it's pathetic to demand that it "pay its way", when Blackberries, country club memberships, new carpet, golden parachutes (hush money), business cards, conference attendance, corporate jets, and many other things are not subjected to ROI analysis.
Don't argue with stupid selfish companies.
Find those whose hearts are already prepared, companies that don't just say they care, but are willing and eager to prove it. Evangelize them with the good news of social media and what it can do for competitive advantage, PR, and positive word of mouth.
The resistant companies will eventually jump in, when it's too late.
If You Do Your Job Right, Nobody Will Ask About Social Media ROI by Shel Holtz
The ROI Label and the Credibility of Communications by Shel Holtz
my post How To Understand Social Media ROI