Social media marketing is like dating


Last week, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced to the press that there are now 50 million active users who log in to the micro-blogging site every day and twice that number that logs in once a month. Impressive until you in put in perspective that this is less than 50% of the total number of registered users on the site–a staggering 200 million. It dawns on me that while the Twitter growth trajectory speaks volumes about the widespread acceptance of social media, there is still a long way to go when it comes to its understanding and use.Every now and then while interviewing startups, some as young as in their conceptualization phase, I come across one who as enamored as they are with marketing on the web, are also as clueless about it. Having a social media strategy is thus reduced to having a twitter account, and marketing efforts to blasting out new updates by the hour. I wonder if this is only a consequence of the generation we live in - where anything that is ‘social media’ is defined as ‘cool’ or simply the outcome of way too many freely available resources on what a good social media plan is.

So I tread tepidly in order to not turn this article into yet another sermon on ‘how many tweets in a day are necessary to maximize ROI’. Instead, I will talk about all the things that you should definitely not do– the 5 rules that you must follow as sacrosanct in order to not commit social media marketing suicide.

1.    Don’t – Not have an objective

Would you first shoot and then aim? Would you start walking and then decide your destination? Then why would you plan to market your brand online without having any defined goal? It really is no different. The best way to ensure an early death for your social media plan is to not know what you’re seeking out of it. If you want your social media efforts to go anywhere, define the ‘where’, before you set out on it. What should your objectives be? If you’re really looking for an answer to that question, you probably shouldn’t even start-up, but well, you could define your goal as anything from ‘I want to introduce my brand to a specific audience’, ‘I want to improve my products’ search engine ranking’, ‘I want to have my brand mentioned more number of times’, ‘I want to educate my customers about a new feature’, so on and so forth.

2.    Don’t - Be a Lemming

Lemmings is a species of rodents that follows group forces so much so that they continue to follow one another, even right off a cliff, falling to their death in a mass accident. A term also referred toin popular culture as ‘herd mentality.’ Do not fall to your death by doing things on social media just because ‘everyone is.’ Every business, every product/service/brand, just like every individual is unique. Your Facebook fan page will not necessarily have the same number of fans as your competitors, the same number of people will not respond to one tweet as many responded to another. Social media is much too broad today and encompasses several unique platforms such as blogs, video sharing, networking forums, etc. There will always be one that fits your requirement more than another. Or perhaps a combination of a few. Find out what works for you, for your offering is only as unique as you communicate it to be.

3.    Don’t – Cover your ears

So you gained a few followers last month? What do you do next? Start tweeting incessantly about your product being the best thing to have happened to mankind, the service it will do to humanity with its new feature? Do one good to humanity and spare your followers this one-way discourse. Social media is all about conversations. Dialogues. Exchanges. Feedback. Listen to your audience and to your suppliers and to your potential customers and just about anybody that is talking about your product, its generic category, about a feature they want but does not exist anywhere in the market. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn by only listening in to the right people on social media.

4.    Don’t – Isolate your social media initiative

The most common thing for a start-up to do is to create a company account on a social network and post all updates from that one single profile. As a result of which, point #3 entails. A lot of talking, very little listening, even less understanding. In the early days of your start-up, it is especially important to democratize your social media plans. Have the founders set-up an account, have the team set-up individual accounts; in addition have a formal company account for all official announcements and updates. This way your team will not only understand their customers better, but will also be directly engaging with them, thus bringing in new perspectives on response and acceptance. A huge edge over any other competitive strategy.

5.    Don’t – Ignore the numbers

“When you look at numbers, you end up improving them,” shares Hiten Shah, CEO and co-founder, KISSmetrics, - a Silicon Valley based analytics firm that helps companies identify and improve the metrics that drive online business. Very true! To take the same analogy as in the first point, conducting social media activities without measuring the success for it is like shooting at a target but never checking to see if it actually hit it or not, before going on to hit the next arrow.

Hiten adds, “While it is hard to measure success for social media at a generic level and there is no one single metric to define success, qualitative responseis a fairly decent measure. For example on twitter, people replying to your tweets and retweeting is good indication that you’re atleast on the right path.”

And if you do go wrong, don’t worry too much. As Hiten summarizes it “Social media marketing is like dating. You go out with different people on a date but not every single date might work out. That doesn’t stop you from dating. Similarly, you might put out a bad tweet that doesn’t get you any response. But don’t give up. It’s all about getting through the process, and the web offers enough scope to correct and better yourself.”