If you’re a marketing or PR pro active on Twitter, it’s likely you’ve seen @arikhanson crop up once or twice. Arik Hanson is a digital PR consultant with more than 14 years of PR/marketing experience under his belt. He was recently included on PRWeek’s “required reading” list for his blog, Communications Conversations and was kind enough to spend some time talking with us about the future of social media and mistakes he has seen companies make in this space.
Q. Are you surprised to see how big social media has become? And how useful?
I don’t know if I ever thought Facebook would hit 500 million users or that we’d see our 20 billionth tweet, but you could see the huge potential early on. That much was clear from my vantage point.
Q. Do you think it’s possible for brands/companies not to be involved in social media and still be successful?
Oh sure. I certainly don’t think it’s a “must have” for all brands. It’s all about employing the strategies and tactics necessary to reach your key audiences that will drive results for your business. Resources and company culture have an awful lot to do with a brand’s engagement online too. There’s a lot of “me too” marketing going on right now as it relates to social media. Just like the late 90’s with the Web boom: ‘my competitor has a web site – I need one too.’
The smart companies are taking their time researching, evaluating options, exploring — before moving ahead. Without moving too slowly of course.
Q. Sometimes we see companies make mistakes when it comes to social media. What do you think some of the major, common mistakes are?
1) Not narrowing their focus. Typically brands are short on time and resources. They’re not infinite. You have to make the most with what you have. I think some organizations get into trouble because they have so many great ideas, and they want to execute them all. Not possible. I usually suggest a “slow-but-steady” approach. Start with a narrow focus. Put your time and energy where the biggest payoff is, and build out from there.
2) It’s about them–not you. By their very nature, most brands want to talk about themselves. A lot. But to be successful online, you need to frame up posts, tweets, updates, etc. in terms of the customer–not your organization. Take blog content, for example. Some brands will use a blog to talk about new products, features and benefits, new hires … the list goes on and on. All about “me.” Now, it’s OK to have some of that, no question. But the bulk of your blog content should focus squarely on the people reading your blog–your customers (and potential customers). List ways your product can help make their lives easier. Use guest posts from customers and other experts in your field. Have conversations with other customers about how to make your product/service even better. Organizations just need to flip their thinking a bit.
3) Social is pay-to-play, not pay-for-play. I can’t remember exactly who coined that phrase, but I think it rings true. Some organizations treat social like advertising: ‘I’m paying a consultant/agency to handle this for me.’ They want the consultant/agency to basically manage their community for them, and I guess that’s fine. But, I don’t see it that way. In order to be truly successful online, your organization needs to embrace the key tenets of what’s happening online these days. You get what you put into it. For example, if you’re blogging for business, and you only post twice a month, you’re probably not going to get a lot out of it. Now, if you’re posting 2-3 times a week and actively building community around your blog, I bet you’re going to see some results. You get what you put into it. That’s a different kind of concept than what marketers and PR pros are used to.
Q. Do you think these are mistakes that will continue to be made, or do you think that over time, brands will better understand how to execute on social media?
I definitely think companies will learn at a faster rate, but to think we could reach a nirvana-like state where everyone is operating perfectly? I think that’s a little far-fetched.
Q. What is your first suggestion for organizations getting ready to jump into social media for the first time?
Listen. But, don’t just listen—research! Sure, you want to listen to what your customers and key stakeholders are saying about you online. But, if I’m new to the space, I also want to know: 1) What my competitors are doing and what’s working for them and what’s not ; 2) Industry best practices; 3) Audience profiles for my key audiences; 4) Key influencers in my niche (among other things).
Armed with that information, you are definitely ready to create an informed social media strategy.
Q. What is one of your favorite examples of an organization using social media right?
I love what Punch Pizza is doing locally here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I just wrote about the case study in a post the other day.
This post was written by Amanda Grinavich who is an account coordinator at SHIFT Communications. Amanda tweets via @agrinavich and blogs about one of her favorite things: hockey. Amanda Guisbond (@agbond) also contributed to this effort.