You Just Can’t See It. Or you don’t want to see it.
Over the roughly two decades that I’ve been involved with business, either as an entrepreneur, an executive director or a social media strategist, I’ve heard the same frustration voiced over and over again, in almost every market I’ve worked in. After hours, weeks or sometimes months of seemingly endless meetings, late-night war room strategy sessions and presentation after presentation of focus group reports, eventually the people in charge of making the decisions for the direction of an organization bury their face in their hands and declare in frustration and defeat, “if only we knew what everybody wanted from us, we could just give it to them“.
This has applied to product development, marketing campaigns, service implementation…anything and everything a company (for profit or not) could possibly put together to offer a group of people. “If only we could find out what our customers want…”
Studies are ordered. Thousands of dollars…or millions…are spent on consultants and burned up in labor hours. When the senior management team meets to discuss, debate and dissect the data, 20% of the organization’s labor dollars are being paid out for each hour they cannot figure out what their audience wants. At some point or another, late into the night, one of the people around the tables feels the frustration of a seemingly insurmountable task. They want to be home with their family, they want to get back to the work they were hired to do instead of trying to figure out puzzles…they want to solve the mystery of how to move forward. But how? And then the idea is presented:
“We should try social media. I know we already have a Facebook and Twitter page, but instead of just posting something once a week, why don’t we ask the people that follow us what they want, and then listen to them? Also, why don’t we pay for a monitoring service so we know what people are saying about us and even our competitors? People are already telling us what they want, we just need to listen, reply and implement”
The silence only last for a moment, before a chorus of “we will lose control of the message” and “we can’t create a forum for negative comments” starts. The boss makes an expression that is a combination of fear and patronization and simply says, “that’s too risky, we’re not doing it” before starting a discussion about when the best time to meet again will be to tackle this impossible chore.
Sometimes what you need is right in front of you, you just can’t see it…or worse yet, you don’t want to see it.
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing strategy with different groups this week, so it’s fresh in my mind . Good thing, as my title is Senior Director of Social Media Strategy. I’ve also been looking at a lot of requests from potential clients and outside groups that all want a response that includes a “Social Media Strategy”. The thing is, 99% of the time, they really don’t want a strategy…they want operations and tactics, and we can’t even give those to them because they don’t have goals in place.
Strategy is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in all of marketing, perhaps in all of business.
- “Build a Facebook sweepstakes application that lets users share and win” is not a strategy…it’s a tactic.
- “Be the best widget company in the social space” is not a strategy…it’s a mission.
- “Get 100,000 Twitter followers by the Holiday season” is not a strategy…it’s a goal.
The big short circuit, of course, is that many people aren’t working off of the same page. They’re not even working out of the same book, because clear and measurable goals have not been set. If somebody approaches you with a mission to accomplish, and you answer with a lot of tactics, more times than not both sides will be frustated with the outcome because Goals and Strategies have been left out of the process. The frustration won’t be evident right away, it takes time to realize that the different expectations are worlds apart. Without measurable goals, how do you know if your work will be judged as a victory or a failure?
The big problem with social media strategy, or any strategy for that matter, is not that it doesn’t exist…it’s that it cannot exist as a stand-alone; it needs other pieces to work.
A social media strategy is not the victory itself, it is the path to victory. But if you don’t know where you are going, how can you plan a way to get there?
I have a pretty decent amount of experience in business and online community relations. Since the middle of the summer I have been working on a social media project for an international non-profit based here in Los Angeles. The NPO approached me about designing, building, deploying and marketing an amazing idea that I think would really change the face of what they did all around the world. We were all quite excited about it, and it was moving along nicely. Just a couple of weeks ago we got notice that the funding for the project had disolved. Given the tough economic climate in the U.S. and abroad, this was understandable but disappointing to all involved.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
Until that point I was more than busy with a project for at least the next year. This scope of this was so great that I wasn’t even considering other companies to work with, I just wasn’t going to be able to spread myself out that much. Things have changed now, and it appears that I have some time on my hands.
If your company, non-profit, church or cause could use a boost with social media, business management and process or online exposure, please drop me a note or call my office at 323-774-1269. I would love to talk to you about this! If our initial conversation appears to be something we both want to pursue, I will draft a written proposal and get it to you quickly.
I will be building out this site over the next few weeks to reflect the services that I can offer to you and your company, but for a quick look, check out this area which will give you an overview. Thanks! I look forward to hearing from you.