By Marsha Friedman
— I remember when the Internet first gained prominence and it became apparent that having a website was essential for any commercial enterprise.
Back then, web designers were not plentiful and few people thought to hire a professional to create a site. They felt that any web presence was better than none, and they found people they knew who were into the whole Internet thing to help them.
As a public relations professional, when I saw a website that didn t represent people well or looked amateurish, I d ask who created it. Invariably, I d get answers like, My nephew did it, or I bought `Web Design for Dummies’ and did it myself. Another answer was, My son has a friend who just graduated with a degree in computer science. While those days have passed for websites, I m afraid I am seeing the same thing happen with social media.
As social media has become an integral element of all mainstream media, some people regard it as a good addition to their marketing tactics but not so essential that they need to approach it with a professional sensibility. As with any marketing outreach, social media done badly will actually set a person back rather than move him forward.
Here are some tips for people to gauge whether they re taking the right approach or heading down the wrong path:
My daughter does that for me. If your daughter is a college graduate with a broad-based education that includes a degree in mass communication, I d say you may be on the right track. However, if she 18 and her primary qualification is that she has Twitter and Facebook accounts, I d say you need to re-evaluate your choice of marketing personnel here. Just because she your daughter and can use Facebook and Twitter, doesn t mean she has the skills necessary to market a business using social media.
I hired a college intern. While college students may be part of the social media generation, it doesn t automatically qualify them to do social media for you. Unlike traditional media, which is a communication to a broad audience, social media is one-to-one marketing outreach. You are communicating directly to individuals and anyone who has ever posted an opinion in an Internet forum knows the online audience is not to be trifled with. Understand that your reputation is on the line. With the variety of questions and comments you will receive, it is critical that they re handled with care and professionalism to avoid any repercussions to your name and brand. A social media marketing professional should be an astute communicator who ensures each time the right tone, caring and message is delivered for maximum return and who keeps your audience engaged. This dynamic is crucial for the success of the program.
I got 11 new followers on Twitter this week. Of course, building followers is important, but you ll never make a social media campaign work by gaining followers one or two at a time. For myself, my company and our social media clients, we have a monthly benchmark for building followers. Now, this benchmark is not a gross number, but a net figure after we have weeded out spammers, chronic friend-adders, and marriage proposals from men in foreign countries, and yes, I ve gotten a few of those.
At the end of the day, social media is serious business. Done right, it can create a base of thousands of followers. Done wrong, it wastes time and energy and, most important, gives people the impression that social media marketing isn t important. In fact, it has become one of the most critical and fundamental components for any marketing strategy, which every company needs to put in place.
Marsha Friedman is a 21-year veteran of the public relations industry who speaks nationally on the power of publicity. She is the founder and CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.GuaranteedNationalPR.com)