Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why do blue skies become overcast when talking social media?

I went to a presentation this morning from Jamie Pride who heads up Deloitte Australia's online practice. For an accounting firm, those dudes at Deloitte are pretty cool. One of Jamie's colleagues, Pete Williams, regularly does the rounds projecting his entertaining patter to industries from advertising to financial services.

These presentations always start with the Socionomics video on the exponential growth of internet usage and social media in particular (if you're the only person who hasn't seen one of these, here's a link - set aside about four minutes). Then we talk about digital natives, or those under 35 who've never known a world without computers. This is all good stuff, the audience becomes more animated. Even the pulses of  actuaries can be seen to quicken - or start for the first time.

By the time the formal presentation ends, the whole audience is wondering how we'd ever survive without social media. Even more, they're growing restless as they realise their oversight in not making social media the core driver of their marketing communications. But then... question time and the clouds start to gather.

You see, most of the gigs I attend are financial services related. From our regulated, compliant regime, we dare only occasionally pull the curtains back to take a peek at what is possible. And what we see troubles us. All this freedom is unhealthy, when you're constrained by legislation and regulation that reflects the media landscape of the 1980s rather than the present.

How can we engage in online conversations when regulations say we cannot give personal advice? The whole thing about social media is that it's very personal - it's about talking to me, about my interests and concerns. I'm not interested in general information that I must take away, interpret and overlay on my own circumstance. I want an expert to chat to me and tell me what I need to know and I don't want to pay a few hundred bucks an hour for advice when my super fund, bank or insurance company is available to me online.

The boys and girls from Deloitte tell us what many promoting social media do. It's free, or low cost, so just get online and do it. Try things. Fail quickly, but learn and then try again. Persevere, this online engagement stuff is a long-term strategy. It's about relationship building and networking, not quick returns.

I agree that everyone should be considering integration of social media into their channel strategies. I agree that it's trial and error in most instances. What works for some doesn't work for others. Running test campaigns in social media is no different than similar experiments in traditional media - the beauty being that failed campaigns cost less. Or do they?

Every time you enter the social media space, you leave a digital impression that lasts a lifetime - perhaps beyond. For businesses, this is a brand footprint, which means reputational risk if you stuff anything up. You'd be amazed at how cheap it can be to ruin a brand, so if you're going to experiment, follow a few basic rules:
  • Know why you're doing it;
  • Know how it fits into your broader channel strategy;
  • Know how it will integrate with other customer service and communications channels;
  • Take time to learn the protocols for online engagement;
  • Know how you're going to add value to the conversation.
If you are vague on any of these issues, don't even start. Experimenting is fine, but blundering in without a plan is courting disaster.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Any thoughts on this, drop them here...