4 Social Media Dilemmas

originally posted on Concept Hub

In a few short weeks I will celebrate 4 years of being in business. That is 4 years of exploring social media for my own personal branding, personal expression, ongoing education, and marketing efforts. 4 years where I have had the honor to work with over 30 clients, and helped launch 3 new social media  sites! (ATL Insider,  Lens on Atlanta, and eRollover). I have designed over 3 dozen customized courses and I have written over 2,000 pages of research and recommendations. I have Co-Chaired 3 Social Media Conferences (SoCon07, 08, and 09), been the Chair TAG’s Enterprise 2.0 Society for the past 2 years and have launched and managed Digitainment‘s Social Media presence. I have spoken at almost 50 events and been publish in magazines, the AJC, the Atlanta Business Chronicle as well as featured in several podcasts.

I have forgotten about more social media tools than most people will ever be aware of. I have launched 3 personal blogs, and deleted 2 of them. I have gathered several hundred facebook friends only to de-friend them. I gathered over 1,000 followers on my Concept Hub Twitter account (without tools or bots) in a week, based on a bet (no money was involved, so I guess it was more of a challenge.) Now I am spending hours making that account actually be part of a working strategy.

Over the years I have had lots of successes, but I have also made lots of mistakes, or what I prefer to think of as learning experiences.

As I reflect on all that I have learned over the past 4 years, I decided to share with you my insights on 4 social media dilemmas.

1. Personal vs Professional

The more involved a person gets in social media for business the harder it will become to separate your personal from your professional self. In fact, many people are looking to know more about your personal self as opposed to your professional self, whether they are potential partners, clients, or employers. This is especially true here in the South. How many times have you met someone for a business meeting and spent a good portion of the time talking about sports, kids, vacations, and so forth.

For the longest time I had no problem mixing my personal life with my professional life. I accepted people I barely knew, or only briefly met, on my Facebook page, along with my family and my friends from high school. This did not seem to be a problem for me until:

  1. A good friend posted some very flattering photos of me in a bikini back when we were in high school. They are good pictures, we are not doing anything crazy, but I questioned, do I want people I barely know looking at them?
  2. I took a weekday off and was hanging out at PF Changs waiting to meet a friend for lunch. I ordered a glass of Merlot and posted on Facebook “there is nothing like the first sip of Merlot to make it all melt away.” Well, the comments from my high school friends that followed made me realize very quickly that they know a different “Sherry” than the person I am today.
  3. I met with a high school friend that I have not seen in 10 years. She said to me “I try to keep up with what you are posting on Facebook, but I do not understand it.” By posting work related topics, I was alienating my friends and family on Facebook.

So, as a result I have set up a Concept Hub Fan Page to focus on work related topics and keep my personal profile page focused on what is going on in my life. I still connect with my professional network on Facebook, but only those who I know; The people that I would sit in a coffee shop with and discuss the latest about sports, kids and vacations along with work efforts.

Anything that I want to keep very closed to only friends and family can be shared through sites that are not as mainstream, or through closed groups, or good old fashion email. Anything that is truly personal, should not be shared online at all.

2. Quantity vs Quality

I sat in a meeting recently where a “Social Media Expert” sold the client on managing their social networking efforts for them. With very few exceptions, this in not a strategy I endorse. To me it is equivalent to outsourcing your networking events. (“Let’s see, I can not make it to the CXO dinner tonight, let me call my PR rep to go for me.”)

Basically, I do not understand how passion, personality, and expertise can be outsourced.

Beyond that, the promises I hear is “how many followers” they will attract and how many canned messages will be pushed out. How is this different from traditional PR/Marketing?

Social Media does have a place in traditional Marketing, PR, and Interactive Marketing when it comes to getting the right messages to the right people through the channels that your audience wants to receive those messages.  But Social Networking is about relationships. Remember, based on a challenge I was able to attract over 1,000 followers in a week. I also was able to push hundreds of messages to those people. But in the end, the efforts that have paid off for me are the efforts I have put into nurturing relationships. Relationships take time, therefore if you are going to invest time into channels where people are expecting to develop relationships with you, focus on who you are connecting to, not how many people you are connecting to.

3. Where to Begin and When Does it End

Where to Begin? Begin by learning what you need to know. There are so many people out there saying “we can help you with your social media too!” and the end result is wasted time, wasted money, and a lot more confusion.

Oftentimes when I meet people with little to no experience with social media I suggest that they use a few tools for personal reasons; vacations, wishlists, and hobbies are a good start. Look for which tools and applications make your life easier and which ones are adding more things to your life. If you do decide to hire an agency or a technology company to launch your social media program, PLEASE check to see how many people on the project are very active on Social Media sites. So many times I have seen efforts that are so counter-logical to me (yes I think I just made up that word). When I look into the backgrounds of the people who were in charge of the strategy, design, or execution I often find that they might have a few profiles set up in several sites, but they are not actively involved on any sites. Therefore they are not exposed to what works and why, which leads to efforts that are counter-logical to those who do live and breathe social media.

So where does it end? Never. It is like the phone, which was an incredible communications invention that was introduced over a century ago, and yet more than 100 years later mobile marketing is still the hottest new thing. Social Media will continue to evolve and grow and will become a part of almost every aspect of our lives. 

4. How Do I Know If Social Media Is Working?

I read lots of business and career books and the one thing that they all have in common is the importance of being top of mind and managing the  impressions people have of you. Your social media efforts are working if you are top of mind of the right people, the people who can buy from you or influence the buying decisions of others. Your social media efforts are working if you have created an impression of your brand and services that can withstand an attack from a disgruntled customer, employee or competitor.

When I launched my company I was often surprised when I would attend an event and people I have never met in person knew who I was. Now I find myself a little surprised when someone has not heard of me. Of the 50 events I have presented at and the publications I have been mentioned in, I have never pitched or solicited myself to any of them. Each opportunity was presented to me and more than half of my clients have been through referrals or people finding my information online.

There is a lot of buzz right now questioning the value of social media or  inquiring about the ROI of social media. Social media is nothing more than an extension of who we are as a person or as a brand. If you and/or our brand have a strong value offering, the proper execution of a social media strategy will provide a strong ROI. If you and/or your brand have a number of character flaws, then social media may expose those flaws and bring you and your company crashing down.

That is the #1 lesson I have learned over the past 4 years. Social Media is simply an extension of who we are;  personally and professionally, quality and quantity, from beginning to end.