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August 3, 2010Buzzword Bingo: Social Media Edition

The cat’s out of the bag. For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing a lot about social media. Not here, (although I do blog about social media fairly regularly), but in my day job as a copywriter. I mostly produce content for the web and the web right now is all about… you’ve got it, social media. The problem is, as I’ve expressed before, social media is the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s how SEO was a few years ago — a lot of people portraying themselves as experts, with very few people knowing what they’re actually talking about. Your average ‘social media expert’ is just some guy with a Facebook page and a Twitter bombarding you with spam. It isn’t “engagement” — it’s monetization masquerading as humanization.

The random-pullquote-generator site What the F**k is my Social Media Strategy blows the Nathan Barley types spouting buzzwords out of the water. It’s a simple site, generating random quotes to do with social media using all the buzzwords we’ve become familiar with over recent years. Here’s a few choice quotes it gave me:

  • “Build loyalty & increased engagement through ongoing conversation and brand experience”
  • “Expose new and relevant communities to the brand by providing assets to encourage brand evangelism”
  • “Amplify word of mouth by motivating influencers”
  • “Utilise social currency to amplify experiences and drive conversations”

Let me guess. You’ve heard these before, right? That’s because Social Media has become a big industry with its own buzzword-sprouting language all about ‘engagement’ and ‘evangelism’ and all the other words you’ve heard before.

This brilliant, simple site has more or less torn every social media ‘expert’ a new one by stating what, for many of us, has been blatantly obvious for a long time. Social media isn’t about “engaging with brands,” it’s about people talking to people. Sure, you can influence people’s purchasing decisions and make a name for yourself with a good viral campaign (the Old Spice viral springs immediately to mind), but the fact is, most people trying to monetize social media are barking up the wrong tree. No, put simply, they’re just barking.

Marc Brownstein over at Advertising Age gets it spot on. Over-reliance on social media will damage your brand. Why?

Social media belongs in the media mix. But it shouldn’t be the entire mix. How will customers find you? Why should they care about your product/service? What are you going to do when your competitors crank up their promotional spend and start taking your customers? This message is simple — the short-term delight of not spending any media dollars on advertising will surely have a long-term effect: brand erosion.

Marc’s point is a simple one. Social media marketing is popular because it’s cheap. Instead of spending millions advertising your brand, get your customers to do it for you. But the fact is, that isn’t what social media is all about. To use a buzzword, it’s all about engagement. It’s about brands actually listening to what their customers want, and responding to those demands. It’s not another “push” medium ripe for “monetization”. It’s an opportunity to talk face-to-face. In the long run, that’s the only way to make social media work — as dialogue. The fact is, if you’re marketing, if you’re trying to attract new customers, you’re better off spending your dollars elsewhere.

Social media works, but only if you engage with people on their level — as equals, as voices — not as target audiences and “brand evangelists”.

The message of What the F**k is my Social Media Strategy is clear. Stop talking shit about social media. Start talking to your customers, and start learning what they want.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 11:09 pm and is filed under Blog, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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