Social Media: Time to stop the hype…

lone-wolfRecently, I’m starting to turn into what could be described as a social media contrarian. Maybe it was some work I was doing with some rather ineffective social media users, but if I hear one more time that social media is some form of magical golden bullet I may have to start screaming loudly….

Let’s be clear: social media is a communication tool. I think it’s sometimes fast, and yes, it can potentially reach many people. But… the emphasis here is on sometimes and potentially. It’s also full of hot air – and even more so surrounded by people who believe the hot air. My particular favourite at the moment are people who have “just launched an app” (why that in itself is social is a little beyond me), and are so in love with their own app, that they completely forget why people would use the app… Or they have just (welcome to 2012!) started on twitter – and are now expecting hordes of people to follow – and amazing act upon what they say (preferably when they are actually not themselves interacting at all). My absolute favourite in this aspect must be a particular doctors surgery. They really did have the (insert suitable word here) to tell me, that they had posted on twitter (!!) that they had started flu vaccinations – and now expected most of their regular vaccinees to turn up. Funnily… they didn’t (especially not those over 65 for some reason…).

While this incident may be comical to the extreme, it does highlight the complete ignorance that still exists about social media – it’s effectiveness and the totally  overhyped reach of those messages. Compare it to good old traditional advertising: The message may not be particularly effective (on a per person basis) but many people will still see it. So there is a pretty good chance a few will act. So a nice advert on Downtown Abbey will reach a few million people – and a few might act.

If you come to social media, suddenly everyone seems to be counting people that are “on it” as their own personal “reach”. Well… the problem is they are not. Take said doctors surgery… They have 50 followers on twitter. Many of whom are not exactly human (but “follow backs”) – so their reach, when you count what looks like humans, is somewhere around the 30 mark. If we assume they have about 10.000 patients on their “list”, then… well the reach isn’t exactly promising, is it?I don’t even wish to point out, that all they have ever done is blast a few “news” items at their followers – rather than interact in any meaningful way. So why would anybody even notice what they are saying?

The problem with social media is, that really no matter how important you are, you have no exclusivity of voice – and there are many, many voices. So how do you attract attention? Well, not by randomly blasting out news items as if you are the state news reader from North Korea. It’s all about adding value (oh no!). And the best way to do that is to engage with the people that follow you, just act as “human” to make people connect emotionally – and then your reach will grow and social media will add value to the followers. Other ways are, of course, to offer discounts (many brands try it that way)… amongst other ways… Either way: if you fail to engage or add value… well… you may just be a social media lone wolf.

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