Maybe I'm admitting my age but I never grew up with social media. I was well into my career with the ascendance of social media companies. I really do understand the value of the media for personal use but for business - ahhh, not so much. Everyone says they need it but most can't even fathom how to show a return on investment for it. I see everyone "cheating" and paying for placement on Facebook and LinkedIn instead of striving for viral effect. Based on the billions in ad revenues being generated at the big social media sites, lots of companies are "cheating".
The fundamental problem I see with social media is they fail on one of the key tenants of social - two or more parties getting to know or knowing each other. Let's face it, if you have 3,000 LinkedIn members in your account you really don't know the majority of them. You probably are searching your own network using the supplied search tools all the time.
I think most companies use Twitter, Facebook, etc. as little more than an email distribution list. Really when you think about it did you give up Constant Contact or some other database email communications tool to wholly shift over to social media? Well, I admit, some will answer yes, but for most people I speak with, they say no. So in balance I think most companies use social media as just another way to spam their customers or would be customers. Social? I don't think so. Selfish is more like it.
You see social is a two way street. It is giving and getting, but getting without an agenda for reward. It is also entertaining. It is also enriching. And sometimes, heavens forbid, it's even a little controversial.
Case in point, for those in your Facebook network and those in your LinkedIn network what's the difference in the character and even language of how they post. Most likely it's markedly different. In general, I'd say there is a lack of personality with most people's LinkedIn accounts. Why? They want to be safe. They don't want anything to negatively affect them in any possible way as relates to work. But on Facebook usually that concern isn't present.
I think for most companies they use that same concept for social media - measured, safe, BORING. Many might think well what's wrong with that? What's wrong if no one gets to know your company's personality? Should your company have a personality? So why would they care? And, why would they interact, think about your business or ultimately, share what you're doing with others? If you're not part of their minds then really are you part of your customer's lives? And if you're not part of their lives isn't it easy for them to walk away from you?
I'm not saying anyone needs to blow up cars in their parking lots and post it on YouTube (although I bet it would get a lot of hits). But, we're all people. We're not robots. If I would personify most company profiles they're androids, robots with a human face - with no faults but with no inflection, no character, no flaws - boring.
One of the most refreshing things we see on TV is when a CEO, politician or sports coach admits - yeah, I screwed that one up. Why? It shows they're human and people can relate. Also, it shows they don't have all the answers. This is opposite of a White House press conference, regardless of the president in office.
We all need to strive to be more "human" in our business social media efforts. We need to trumpet success, admit failure and wax trivial as well.
Here are some tips for your business social interface:
1) Find someone in your organization that likes to write. Task them with writing one thing per week about your company. Let is be an insider's view. It could be as simple as a filthy sink or as straight forward as a screw up your company made better. You can cheat and look at their Facebook pages or ask around the office who has the most entertaining personal posts.
2) Give out information that's helpful. A software company could post a helpful tip or unrecognized time saving feature once a week. Heck, I've used Salesforce for over a decade and it's gotten so "bloatwarish" I'd love for them to do something like that. I don't need more webinars. I need tips.
3) Let the tone be conversational. The writing should be phonetically correct but personally relevant.
4) Do give a few guidelines. Put a fence around some "not to go into topic" area. If your business has nothing to do with sex, politics and a view on equal rights, then don't go there.
5) Do reflect your geography, location and immediate culture. I live in the Chicago area and if I want to rant about the Chicago Cubs... let me. Just ask me to bring it back to the company somehow.
6) Dare to be a bit human. If the weather sucks - feel free to say it that way.
7) Interact online. Let it be a public forum and know that you'll get "flamed". If you handle the insults well you'll build up some street credibility.
8) Invite questions. Ask for thoughts and when you get incomplete half baked comments ask for more. Hey, they're responding and that's a one in some many thousand occurrence.