When I worked in the wine industry many moons ago we had certain classes of wines that were commonly referred to as ‘ladder wines’. These were grape varieties or styles that an individual would typically start enjoying as part of their wine journey – for most people it would stat with a sweet white such as a Spatlese Lexia. As a person’s palate matured they would move up a predicable ladder of taste sophistication to dryer whites, onto sweeter fruit-driven reds, and finally across to fuller-bodied, savoury reds.
A similar step-process plays out for organisations when it comes to the adoption (or non-adoption) of social media. These are the 4 commonly observable rungs.
Rung 1: Social Media, Unconvinced
All business professionals are ‘aware’ of social media at some level – they might use Facebook themselves to keep in touch with family, or observe their children engaging on any number of other platforms. But they are unconvinced it could ever deliver much in the way of business value. They can see other organisations who are active in the space but regard their own industry-sector as different – “It’s not relevant to what we do…”. It’s typically seen as an unwelcome distraction from the real business of business.
Rung 2: Social Media Experimental
Give it a go. The first tentative, experimental steps into social media are likely a Facebook page, a blog (as part of a new website build) and maybe a couple of YouTube videos. Most likely the blog will flounder in the first few months – it’s a bigger task than most people imagine to produce long-form text on a regular basis. The YouTube videos will sit out there and rack up a few views without doing any harm. Facebook will get the lion’s share of attention, after all it seems easy enough to push out a few product pics and announce the date of an upcoming clearance sale. The social media success measures at this experimental stage will likely be the public scoreboard of fan or follower numbers, rather than definable business goals.
Back to Rung 1: Social Media, Now Doubly Unconvinced
The initial push into social media loses momentum – the input required to maintain an active presence starts competing with other day-to-day demands. The lack of a visible business return is rightly being questioned. Maybe the person who first drove the entry into social media leaves, or the business just doesn’t want to keep paying an external agency or consultant for what now seems like a one-way flow of money (despite the accumulation of fans and followers). The organisation walks away form their social media, stepping back down onto the first rung.
Up to Rung 3: Social Media Glimmer of Hope
Something seems to be working… it could be as small as an inbound sales lead citing the organisation’s blog. Or referral traffic to the website is up and so are online enquiries. That fluid hydraulics video we posted on YouTube is now sitting at over 3000 views – people really seem interested in our stuff. And a small but highly engaged community has started hanging out on our Facebook business page… climb a rung.
Rung 4: Business as Usual
The question regarding social media shifts from ‘should we be doing it?’ to ‘how can we be doing it better?” Extra resources are typically allocated at this stage – a new part-time or full-time social media position might be created. A formal social media strategy is formulated with clear-cut objectives and measurable outcomes over extended timeframes. A social media policy is codified. Quality content production becomes a priority. Other departments around the organisation are encouraged to get involved, to share in writing the blog, to answer technical questions, and to help the social media effort generally by sharing their expertise outside of their departmental silos.
Eventually the organisation ceases to refer to themselves as ‘doing social media’ anymore – the platforms, the content and the community become integrated into the organisation’s marketing, sales, customer service and communications mix to the point of invisibility. it’s now just business as usual.
After launching the wildly popular perfume Digital in 2008, the house of net101 has unveiled Social. The nose behind this composition, Tim Martin was following the idea of creating a classic business fragrance, “One that would last for years and be the type of scent that organisational stakeholders would adore.”
The notes of Social are composed in accordance with Martin’s personal tastes, who also wanted to create a structured yet approachable composition. “I like strategic-analytical notes and we’ve never done this type of fragrance before, it’s more bottom-line focused than any of our other business scents. But I also wanted to invoke a sense of journey through exotic lands and new ideas.”
Social opens with sparkling notes of warmth and humour. The middle notes introduce a kaleidoscope of content-rich imagery, cascading text, streaming sight and sound. It’s a rush. The base notes create a sense of intellectual order: objectives, reports, goals – there’s no denying an underlying seriousness here. It’s a remarkable balance of weight and counterweight and will find broad appeal with execs from both the commercial and not-for-profit sectors. Its longevity is one of the most impressive on the market, lasting several business cycles and often longer.
When I first experienced Social I felt as though I had stepped into an environment where everything just seemed to work. It inspires feelings of confidence, focus and experimentalism. While it’s squarely targeted at the corporate environment it exudes enough playfulness to be worn outside of office hours. I find myself being drawn back to Social time and again – without doubt, it’s another classic in the making. The packaging as you would expect is gorgeous.
I’m curious about social media, but I don’t really want to put myself ‘out there’. The very idea unnerves me –I think I would rather just stay within the shadows of anonymity. But I have varied personal interests and would genuinely like connect and share with like-minded others. Am I destined to remain the social wallflower or is there an acceptable half-way point I could adopt?
Judy Manningham, ‘Uncertain Social Wallflower’
Dear Gentle Reader
Half-way points? Never, they are ghastly places and should be avoided at all costs! The real question here is one of personal visibility. Little Miss Social herself remembers a not-so-long-ago time when the everyman or women was destined to a social existence of accidental proximity and limited influence. But thankfully it is a thing of the past. As a postscript to Mr. Dylan: the times, Gentle Reader, they have changed.
Social media is an intoxicating assemblage of new technologies. They are enablers of extended and threaded conversations – one may listen, and on occasion hold court. They have formed a tapestry of weak and strong social bonds amongst former strangers, and of course they are an endless source of amusements. But most importantly they are a kaleidoscope of blank canvases upon which to paint, share and propagate connexion. What an opportunity to play the twin roles of conversationalist and artist! You must express yourself, Gentle Reader, out in the creative commons where we can discover you. Publish, opine, engage and claim ownership with manifest confidence. Our new millennium offers much which is easier, but personal online visibility and reputation is now fully our own undertaking. You must to grasp the social media nettle if you want to move from being a person to a person of community interest.
The timid of heart and weak of mind enjoy short shrift in today’s attention economy. Cast aside whatever notions of 20th century modesty you might have and start throwing stones into your chosen ponds. The intersection of ripples – yours and others – is where it gets interesting indeed!
Get your website built on the cheap so it looks like a road accident involving farm animals. El cheapo comes in several guises: DIY (particularly hazardous); outsourcing to a guy overseas named Charles who contacted you out of the blue; your next-door neighbour’s niece – she’s a first-year multimedia student after all.
Grossly underestimate the time required to write half-way decent copy for each of your new web pages. Go into task avoidance mode. Alienate your web developer by not responding to requests for content. Launch the website 14 months late.
Slap $2 stock images across all of your web pages. Chess pieces, balanced rocks, signposts – everyone loves a visual cliché.
Only let potential customers contact you via a contact form (no-one uses telephones anymore). Get back to enquiries within a week – don’t appear too keen with a timely response.
Proudly display a swag of social media icon links on your homepage. Too bad you’re not doing much of note in social media for anyone to look at.
Provide a link to your blog. You’ve only posted on three occasions, all during the first week it went live. A family of possums have since made it their home.
Run with a site-wide jungle theme… cleverly shape all of your web buttons as bananas, and play a random animal noise every ten seconds or so. Talk about getting cut-through!
Bonus dumb idea: place a QR code on your homepage that if scanned takes people to your homepage. Cool!
3 ways to let the market know you have frozen fish for sale:
1. Push (Mass Media)
C’mon, push it reeeal good! Throw serious coin at a mass media channel to crank out an ad to run in short cycle bursts. Pay a premium for wide reach, albeit with hit and miss targeting (the fresh fruit folk just can’t understand why they’re seeing frozen fish ads everywhere). May as well throw a dubious claim into the mix to get their attention: “Our fish are double-frozen for longer-lasting enjoyment”.
2. Pull (Online Search)
Publish a bucket of high quality, non-sales related frozen fish information online through your website, your blog or YouTube. Wait for people to pull it to themselves as part of their research process via their search engine of choice. It’s now a precisely targeted, self-selecting audience you’re talking to. Anticipate their frozen fish related concerns, questions and decision pain-points, and address them all. Go one step further: position yourself as a marketplace authority on frozen fish. Rely on people’s general intelligence to work out who the credible players are in the marketplace, and who they should be buying their frozen fish from at a time and place of their choosing.
3. Pass (Social Media)
Be the gracious host. Build up a community through a social media platform – frozen fish folk who appreciate your presence, useful insights and here-to-help attitude. Wear the brand-hat proudly, but don’t ruin the experience by drawing everything in the shape of a frozen fish. Educate, entertain and inform your guests and let them share, pass on, your branded stories with peers who share their tastes. Yes, even frozen fish can be the talk of the town if you give people something to talk about.
NB: No fish were hurt in the writing of this post. In fact this isn’t a post about frozen fish and how to sell more of them (unless of course you want it to be).
Initiating a break-up is never easy – even letting go of a social media platform can be emotionally challenging. But sometimes it’s the right thing to do… it’s the only thing to do. I’ve had a few bust-ups over the years, starting with MySpace in 2007 (we were both too young, both too foolish). My fling with Second Life in 2008 started with a bang but quickly turned into a fizzer – I still have an old video of our time together which I’ve held onto. I checked out of Foursquare after 2 years – the badge collecting and the Mayoral races wore me down.
And then there was Facebook… we were tight, let me tell you – but she got her big career break on Wall St back in ’13 and fell in with a group of people I didn’t much care for. She changed in ways I didn’t like. We were seeing less and less of each other, and finally one rainy Sunday afternoon I moved out (I think she still has some old records of mine).
Here’s my view on breaking up with a social media account: look after your own needs first – you can’t keep giving endlessly while clinging to the hope that one day it will all come right. It’s the plain enveloped letter that must be signed, sealed and delivered.
Your friends never liked me You gave Facebook or Instagram a go only to discover that your target audience wasn’t hanging out there. Or if they were it was a private party and you never got an invitation.
You’ve changed Yeah, it’s all changing at a rapid clip – algorithms, payment models, privacy settings… but if don’t like the new direction you can hardly complain – it’s the cost of free.
You were always going on about money It’s called ‘paid social media’. It’s business after all.
You were boring me One day cool, and the next day not – think MySpace or Foursquare. Time to leave before the place gets totally trashed and the cops turn up.
I was simply curious And now that particular little experiment is O-V-E-R.
There were others Cut one or two of your social media platforms loose and concentrate on strengthening the remainder. Do it quickly – don’t turn it into a Sophie’s Choice thing.
You were too demanding It’s the ‘media’ part of ‘social media’. No content, no start. Launching a blog as an example without the ability to consistently write high-quality long-form text is not going to end well.
I was on the rebound Someone left the organisation and it became your responsibility. But you need to be committed – If your heart isn’t in it it’ll never work.
9. It never felt right, even from the beginning You’re having difficulty calculating a tangible return on investment (and suspect it may be negative). You need a clearer means of measuring what success looks like against your stated organisational objectives.
I own a small, established vintage clothing boutique in Melbourne and have heard that social media might be helpful for my business. I also have a young niece who is studying an Arts degree and is keen to take over the full control of my social media responsibilities in her spare time. She’s smart and spends most of the day on Facebook already, so I think it might be a good fit. What are your thoughts?
Yours Sincerely, Jessica Francis
Dear Gentle Reader
Let a person under the age of 30 loose on your social media? What a frightful thought! Little Miss Social would never countenance it. As dear Mr. Wilde once quipped, “I am not young enough to know everything.”
No, no, no, the social media for your business is too important a responsibility to be handled by anybody but yourself. What’s demanded is a seasoned and steady hand at the tiller. It’s still business as usual you know.
It’s easy to forget the ‘social’ in ‘social media’. This is a milieu which operates on human behavioural insight, drawn-out courtships, intelligence, wit and a healthy appreciation of the double-entendre.
It is you who must drive this initiative. How ever would your niece – as charming a girl as I’m sure she is – manage the process of discoursing with customers? What missives would she post? Little Miss Social sees too much flotsam in the streams already. How ever would she respond to a line of question or possess the mental dexterity to intercept and blunt the arrow of a customer complaint?
Conversation Gentle Reader – social media is the art of conversation. Does she write with aplomb? Could she be relied upon to furnish the appropriate rejoinder in a social media conversation thread? I think not. How could she?
Or at the very least does she possess a deep working knowledge of your wares, your vintage beauties? Would she be able to discuss upon them with confidence and authority, or would she merely peddle them with the brashness of a camel trader at a market bizarre?
No, Gentle Reader – we want you. It must be you. Pray, who else?