The Essence Of Social Media

I was accused of not understanding the "essence" of social media the other day. Yepp that's right and I have never been so happy and proud of what should have been a negative comment in my life!
Why? Because it means I'm not the intern posting the flavor of the day cupcakes to a company blog anymore. I'm not anymore limited to explaining Social Media as something JUST intangible.
I'm also now capable of thinking in business, back-office and reality.

The person referred to me as thinking too much in business and not enough in the intangible form.

I don't know math really well, I kind of suck at Excel and I'm not a great swimmer. But I do understand social media.

What is social media really? The word implies it's something social and it's media, what's that really? Photos? Web? Music? "Media" could be a lot of stuff.

So here is my take on it and I'll round up with a conclusion of why I think social media can't just be flower power love and peace.

Social Media to me is a new (well not really anymore!) environment where the customer rules.
It's a new way of doing business in a BETTER way.
It makes companies improve, in everything from the way they treat their customers and the quality control of their products, to the experience offered to the customer and the way we let them consume our product (on their terms).
Social Media is boring made fun. It's bad made good.
Social Media is feelings and emotions.
Social media is responsibility and attention. Social media is technology but it's even more humanizing.

Now, bearing all of this in mind, social media is not free and it takes man-power to handle.
It takes qualified manpower and qualified manpower is not cheap.
I sometimes see these job offers of companies looking for a community manager and offering 20-30K/month and it's so obvious the company doesn't get it yet.
Qualified manpower take their job seriously and they know the company is investing and that usually means the company expects to see some type of return of investment...at least AT SOME POINT.
Social media is NOT just posting on Facebook and tweeting. A social media job implies making carefully thought-through strategies, having very clear goals and objectives and being able to report on those.

Crafting engaging blog posts about the best place to buy mozzarella cheese or why visit the Eiffel tower all in it's honor, but always with awareness of what this post, this campaign, this investment brings to the company.
YES if the goal is to create good-will, great positive sentiment and positioning the company as THE hub for information then let's focus on these things but keep in mind it may take a long time to see those monthly salaries, application costs, contest budgets make their way back into the company.

Here is the thing. The general budget for social media is still not huge. In fact it's pretty small.
And unless you're Starbucks with 40 people full time doing ONLY social media, the resources may not allow you to only bear in mind good-will.
Even more, the boss may ask you to report where those dollars for that Facebook contest or Blog design are entering back into the company. Sorry to break it to you, but the fact of the matter is that most of them won't understand your beautiful explanation of how amazing this is for the online climate and how the brand is being perceived in a positive way.

Folks, let's never turn social media into something that it's not. Let's never forget that the customer is and should be in the center. Let's understand it is an organic channel and should take time and effort to nurse, grow and expand.
But let's also be professional. Let's invest money in the right people to handle social media, then let's give them the right tools to create the greatest experiences for the customer, but then let's also make them accountable for their actions and ask for tangible results.

Do I or do I not understand Social Media?

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