A lot of people are excited about social media and think it could have a hugely positive impact on their brand, their marketing and communications, the insight they get, the way in which they deal with customer service and many other benefits it can bring to an organisation and to the way it interacts with and engages customers. They are right to be excited, the opportunities are great but brands should not hide from the fact that getting an engaging social media presence takes proper thought, some effort and may take time to embed.

When you are getting started in social media it is important to think carefully about what you as a business are looking to achieve and drive your activities from this, from a business-led social media strategy. Jumping straight to tools and hoping they will work for you often causes problems. Facebook is not always the answer and what works for one brand will not necessarily work for another brand. You need to think about what you want to achieve and choose tools that will help you to achieve this.

A second consideration should be what is possible with different tools and how you can use them in a way that truly benefits you. There is a lot said about social media and there can be a tendency to put up a Facebook Page to ‘do social media’ (or worse ‘to drive traffic and increase sales’). Working with any social media tool, just as with any marketing or communications tool needs proper thought. And with social media people often think you can put things up and wait for consumers to start ‘engaging’ with you. This almost always won’t happen. It is one of the myths of social media. You need to work hard to get engagement going, and have thought carefully first about what you are doing and why.

This great presentation from Bart De Waele of Belgium agency Netlash highlights some of these myths, or as he says the seven “harsh realities” of social media. Its is a great summary of some of the misconceptions people have of social media and some of the education and training that is often needed in a brand when they start thinking about why they should be engaging online and which tools to use. These seven myths are timely for everybody to consider:

  1. Nobody reads your blog unless the content is valuable and relevant, you have conversations and you build loyalty over time
  2. Your Twitterstream is boring unless you make it interesting with content that is relevant to your target audience and have the right mix of personality and conversation
  3. Your Facebook Fan Page will be empty unless you have valuable content, interaction and conversation there
  4. Your new social networking site will not be used unless you have valuable and relevant content, give people a reason to engage and build audience diligently with good community management
  5. Your great idea will not go viral unless your content is engaging and valuable and people really want to engage with you
  6. Users will not generate content unless you make it easy, ensure there is something in it for users who are generating the content and facilitate this with good community management
  7. Your employees will not help unless you enthuse, train, encourage and support them

These are harsh realities and the myths that often exist about social media and how it can benefit brands and organisations. Overall they show that tools and technology are not the most important thing when any brand uses social media. Its your content and the people who manage and grow your activity who count. Social media is a social activity and it is having a good and thought-through strategy, and the people to launch and build your engagement online that will make a real difference.

Bart’s presentation is below and is also Required Reading this week at FreshNetworks.

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