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Social Media: Expectations vs Reality

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Over the summer I’ve been managing the social media accounts of clients in a wide range of industries, from restaurants to spokes-rappers (seriously) to professional organizers. I’ve learned some things along the way, and since I’ve written about using social media as a business before, I think I’ll make some observations about how it works in reality. I’ve been on the frontlines of the social media landscape, and from my trials and tribulations come the following lessons.

Expectation: “Oh, this is going to be great! I’m going to ENGAGE consumers and have a boat-load of interactions with them! Everyone is going to want to listen to me and talk back to these brands!”

Reality: Interaction with your followers and other consumers is definitely possible. However, to facilitate interaction, you have to be interesting, relevant, and people need to have a reason to read.

Lesson: Twitter is a powerful engagement tool, but only if you ENGAGE the consumer and interact with them. Give them a reason to pay attention. Here’s a really simple idea: people respond to interesting things. No matter what industry you’re in, that fact is going to be true. Use your social media account to send out interesting links, quotes, facts, and anything else that gets the consumer thinking or interested. Also make sure you’re interacting with them as much as possible. Stir up a conversation and retweet what other fans say, and make sure you’re responding to as many followers as you can. Create a community around your brand using social media and they will continue to listen to you.

Another way to get people to pay attention is to reward them. Have special deals for your followers. Possibilities are endless here. There are myriad ways you can utilize Twitter and Facebook for doling out specials, so perhaps that’s another post. I’ve written about

Jet Blue's finest

Foursquare specials before, so just check that post out for ideas. Of course, the more creative, the better. If you really want to be relevant, scour pop culture for something interesting to play with. Any business can find something in current pop culture to use as a special. For example, this week we saw a wonderful freak-out by a Jet Blue flight attendant who stole 2 beers and hopped out of the plane via emergency slide. If you are a bar or restaurant, why not offer a Jet Blue special with 2-for-1 taps? Have a headline like “Slide into happy hour with 2-4-1 beer” and you’d get your followers interested. If you’re in control of the specials, you are only bounded by your own creativity.

A great social media presence needs to be as instant and flexible as possible, meaning you need to be able to react to a current event right after it occurs. I don’t like the buzzword “real-time,” but that’s exactly what you want to be. Flexibility allows you to be fun, creative, and relevant. If a business set aside some money in the budget for “touch-and-go” specials that rapidly change based on culture, followers would have a reason to always check your Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Expectation: “This social media stuff will be a cakewalk. All I have to do is talk to some people, pound out a few tweets a day and update Facebook every now and then, and watch the money roll in.”

Reality: Effectively managing the social media presence of multiple businesses is hard work. You have to be an expert multitasker to juggle clients. It’s a job for someone with a very eclectic set of skills. You have to write in a variety of voices. It’s critical to analyze your competitors, which takes a lot of time. You have to research the industry your client is in and really understand what drives the consumers. It’s also not easy to create interesting content every day; my job is to be interesting, fun and relatable each day while still promoting the business (without being too much like an ad).

Lesson: There’s a reason why my job exists. Social media is time-consuming and research-intensive. Whoever runs social media has to be a great multitasker and needs to have a very thorough understanding of the internet and its culture. They also need to be able to set aside time to write for and manage the social media accounts, analyze the results, and strategize on how to improve. Like doctors, they need to be relatively “on-call” to make sure they are able to respond to any negative publicity. In short, social media is not a 9-to-5 job. This is why businesses allow their social media accounts to be managed by other people. This is also why you see a lot of millenials handling the accounts; we’re digital natives and born multitaskers who don’t consider 9-to-5 a reality.

Obviously, I’m no social media expert (you can find them everywhere, if you listen to all the “Gurus” out there). I have learned a great deal from my experience over the summer. I’ve had some missteps and some days it feels like nobody is listening; the reality is rarely going to match your expectations. However, I’m learning. I’ve picked up a lot of information about social media, and by being a lifelong student, I know I can learn even more.

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