How NOT to do Social Media

(Article first appeared on The CAD Insider on Sep 13, 2011. It has been freshened up and posted here.)

Social media has transformed the world, from finding high school friends on Facebook to overthrowing governments with Twitter. It has found its way into the business, appearing foremost on the agenda of every marketer. Some get it. Some don’t.

After observing one great success and a few dismal failures, may I offer these rules for those still seeking to effectively use social media in the technology business to business arena?

1. Don’t dismiss it.

By now, everyone is aware of blogs, tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn and popular but less established Google +, Instagram, Tumblr, SnapChat and Pinterest. But if you think any of those are preoccupations of your wife, or how the kids waste their time, that they have no place in your business, fads that you can safely ignore… then prepare for the world to pass you by.

2. Don’t question it.

How many times do you still hear “I don’t get Twitter…or Facebook..or blogging…” Guess what? It doesn’t matter if you get it. If people are using a social media application a lot, it could already be a way of life. An entire generation has grown up texting, googling, living their lives on Facebook pages. It’s like the air they breathe. No questions.

Kinda like skis and snowboards. If you open a winter sporting goods store, you better not sell only skis. Even if I don’t get snowboards.

LinkedIn is still gold standard for business networking and Twitter use seems to continue unabated. But with other established social media players, it’s a shifting landscape. While businesses may finally be embracing Facebook, I now hear kids saying their Moms are the only ones using it. What are the kids using? Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram… It’s good to keep an eye on the kids. They are our future customers.

3. Don’t misuse it.

Let’s say you are convinced of the importance of social media. You see the kids in the pool. So you jump in. Except you can’t swim. Your toupee comes off. You’re flailing. Everybody is laughing.

Watching some companies trying to use social media makes me squirm. For one big CAD company, social media meant mandating employees get a Twitter account. But they had nothing to say. Twitter use lapsed into lavish praise of each others’ mediocre accomplishments and of their products. The cheerleading reached a crescendo during a national user meeting with countless retweets of every lame joke the CEO made. And could you ease up on the “great white paper” or salesy webinar. That stuff is on your site, right? We’ll get it if we need it. Thanks.

4. Don’t limit it.

More recently, another big CAD company abruptly declared mid-conference that all tweeting and photos were to stop… shortly after trying to impress us how media savvy, hip and online they were.

5. Don’t blacklist.

You are not going to like everything everyone says about you. Not in life. Not on social media. A company’s first reaction to a critic is often to shut them down. Or cut off their air. You tell employees not to engage. No one is to invite him to company functions. No software for him.

Don’t do it. Blacklisting someone who is active on social media will backfire. Listen to your critics and improve your products or services. Engaging a critic can turn a critic into a friend.

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