Over the weekend, I was developing a social editorial calendar and metrics dashboard for one of my clients. My husband looked over my shoulder and asked me what I was working on. Somehow that led to a discussion of how different people approach social media and reasons why the concept of social media experts has received such a bad backlash over the years. During the conversation, my husband coined 3 types of approaches to social media as Flash, Fluff, and Functional.
Flash is the approach to social media where there is an immediate call to action and a hope for a message to go viral. It could be a contest, a game, a video, or a stunt. The goal is to get people engaged, talking, and then taking some action. I have often referred to this approach as the St. Elmo’s Fire approach to social media.
Jules, you know... ...honey, this isn't real. You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's fire. The electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it. But there was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo. They made it up... ...because they needed it to keep going when things got tough.
Flash social media is needed, just like the sailors needed St. Elmo’s Fire. But it is not real social media. It is just flashes of light that appear in the sky out of nowhere.
Fluff social media approaches are the ones that focus on the numbers. How many followers do we have? how many fans? how many people are coming to our site? Whereas these numbers are important when they are anchored to a core business goal, they have little meaning on their own. They have even less meaning when the fans and followers are spam bots or bought and sold on the digital market. This approach reminds me of a Peacock who displays his feathers to attract a female. It is simply a show that people put on to get attention, whether it is to prove themselves valuable to stakeholders or to sell books.
The functional approach to social media is rarely an award-winning approach. It is slow and intentional. However, that does not mean it is not fun. It tends to become a discovery process of the bigger world as opposed to the corporate message. A functional approach requires compassion for others above their own mission. A functional approach to social media looks at the organization’s current contacts and decides to change the relationship from a business contact to a real connection. It requires that an organization allows itself to be more vulnerable. It requires a lot of soul-searching. It is a full commitment by the organization as a whole, not just one person within one department. It requires faith, patience, and commitment. A functional approach to social media changes the organization for life. It is a lot like a marriage, where there will be good times and bad and it will bring out the best and worse in you. But through it all, you and your community are partners.
What is your social media approach? Are you in it for the long-term?