Social media isn't a fad but a fundamental shift in the way people communicate, connect and collaborate
One thing that marketers should do this year is to wean themselves off press releases that are polished by their PR companies, and spun within hours after the CEO's approval, and embrace social media.
Yes, facebook, blogs and twitter are now growing quickly within the Kenyan media space. But what will prove to be a hurdle is selling the social media idea to the management.
It is the trend this year but will corporates buy the idea?
Social media is currently a hard sell, more so because the 35-year plus managers believe that they should be in control of the message, and also take control over who disseminates information from the organisation. Which again is why organisations have PR companies on board – to ensure the message/ organisation is seen as they want. And of course if the intended message does not resonate with the official position, you have someone to blame; to take the fall for you, after all you are paying them!
Notwithstanding a few brave corporates like Capital FM, Nation Media Group and Ghetto Radio, have jumped into the waters, and many by standers are watching. The question in most people’s minds are will they reap from the ‘free but no man's space’ in social media forums like tweeter, facebook, and their bloggers, or will they take a big hit?
How then, do you sell to “the powers-that-be”? My advice is to start with the positives. I expect your conversation to start with one of these lines;
· Don't you think we should communicate directly with our consumers and stakeholders?
· Are we sure people actually listen to us and interact with us?
· Is it possible for us to build a community of fans or advocates for our organisation?
· Can we start with one of our brands or departments and see how it goes?
Well, social media can help you achieve those things, better and faster than ever before, but only if it’s wholly accepted and encouraged by the management, and the 'open brand' attitude is imbued across the organisation. Most importantly, because you are operating in real time, a dedicated resource person, who must have direct access to the CEO and all other important decision makers, is critical to the success of your interactions.
Is selling social media to the CEO your job?
If you're the person responsible for trying to get the CEO on board, you need to be 'the full bottle' on the vagaries, nuances, ethics and etiquette of the social web. You need to immerse in the space and get an intuitive feel for what works and what doesn't, as well as fully understand the potential pitfalls and opportunities that exist by 'opening up the brand' on the web. Put simply, you are kidding yourself if you think you can properly understand facebook without fully experiencing it first-hand. And that means jumping in personally and getting your feet wet, preferably before trying to sell it to the boss!
Reading about blogging is all well and good, but by starting and maintaining a blog, you will learn very quickly what it's all about. Starting a blog is easy but maintaining one is not that simple. I have tried before and three years down the lane I still struggle to update my blog. Reading about Twitter is all well and good, but only by setting up a personal account and participating in the Twitter-verse will you get a solid grounding in the subtleties of the micro-blogging platform. You get the drift...
If taking the positive tack doesn't work with the boss, perhaps try using fear. Threaten your management by telling them that;
- The new reality is that people are more empowered than ever before (they have a voice and they're prepared to use it). A simple group on facebook can bring down the whole company.
- Shouting at people (one-way broadcast of messages) doesn't work effectively any more. After all it is quite expensive due to the limited media vehicles, and again you don't get to interact with your customers.
- Throwing your message out there and expecting people to listen is fast becoming a waste of time, money and resources. How many times do you flip the Monday business pictorial because you know that those are PR messages and photos?
It's obvious that social media isn't a fad but a fundamental shift in the way people communicate, connect and collaborate. To do nothing will mean your company will be left behind. Right now we have the grace period to get into social media, experiment and make mistakes...after that period, the public will expect you to be social media ready and engaging with them online. And they will be less accepting of those companies that get it wrong.
Lastly if all the above do not work, find out if any of your competitors are using social media and then show the boss examples of their activity.
Bankers, mobile telephony, data service providers and insurance companies are you hearing me?