I was invited to participate in a discussion panel on “Social Media in Business (Case Studies)” at the recent BlogOut’09. Two of the other panelists are familiar faces in the local social media scene – Patricia Law of Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence team and ex-PR consultant Benjamin Koe, who now heads online sentiment analysis service provider JamiQ. The final member of the panel was Debra Tan, one of the organizers of the first-ever Singapore Tattoo Show, an event which leveraged on social media to great effect for its success. Our moderator was Bill Claxton of Itr8, himself an avid tweeter, and charged to keep us on the straight and narrow.
The panel discussion ended far faster than all of us would’ve liked, so I’m penning down a few key thoughts of mine in the aftermath of that discussion here:
1. Social Media – Don’t confuse the Tools with the Community.
Social media tools are merely platforms or touch points you can use to communicate with your audience. But they are not one and the same as the communities that inhabit these virtual spaces. In many cases, your community decides on the platform – a recent blogger initiative I organized resulted in stories across the whole gamut of social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, and media hosting sites such as Flickr and Photobucket.
Marketers should not be afraid to try these tools out. If nothing else, it will prevent your agencies from taking advantage of your ignorance.
2. Your Message is more important than your Platform.
Don’t jump on the Twitter bandwagon just because your competitors are doing so. Does it fit your overall brand? Is it a natural platform to share your message? Marshall McLuhan is right – the medium is your message, and therefore it is imperative that you pick the right platforms to fit your overall message.
In fact, great marketers know that the Big Idea is more important than the platforms they choose on which to apply tactical activities. A blogger outreach is not a “big idea” – in fact, shoot the next agency that suggests that to you.
3. Think beyond Blogs.
This may seem obvious, but blogs do not constitute the entirety of the online space (not even half, in fact). If targeting blogs is the linchpin of your entire social media campaign, you’re destined for cyber ignomity. This is especially so in the Asian context, where much of online activity take place in forums instead.
Other than the social networking sites, how about Wikipedia? There are a lot of restrictions on what you can do on it, but it is extremely powerful and yet most marketers don’t even begin to know how to weave wikis into their online campaigns.
4. Don’t waste your time on the Negative.
You cannot stop negativity. Accept it. People say bad things about you all the time.
Instead of orchestrating an online campaign to counter each and every one of your detractors, how about empowering your proponents instead? After all, even Microsoft has its supporters. Give them the tools and reason to fight your detractors on your behalf.
Not only will you bring some balance to the online conversations about your brand, you’d build even more loyalty with your existing audiences.