Get With It. But Only if You’re Sincere.

If your business is not social networking and tweeting, and blogging, and etc. you might as well just close up shop.

Ok. Not really. In fact, for many business it’s needless distraction that can fragment an image, and a brand. There’s so much talk these days about “taking advantage” of social media sites that it can be overwhelming. Whenever there’s a buzz about a new technology or technique to catch an advertising ear it seems to turn into the new snake oil over night. Since people are finally getting wise to how SEO often is a blatant scam, it seems it’s time to move on to the next big thing. Which seems to be social apps like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.

We get quizzed all the time by clients; “Should we be on MySpace?”, “Should we be Twittering?” The answer is different for different industries and companies. First let’s weigh the good.

  • The trend of companies to be more vocal and open with their clients is a much needed, and great thing.
  • Giving people more ways to be connected to you is always good.
  • Instant communication channels are fantastic, and allow you to fine tune your brand and your message quickly.
  • Customer response time can be greatly improved.
  • You can more concretely, and honestly define your brand.

Those all sound great right? Thank goodness we’re evolving as a culture and an industry. Maybe the days of stuffy business culture is finally over. Customers are people after all, so why not treat them like it?

So what could possibly be wrong with putting your company out there in an online community? The online world is slightly different than what you might be used to. People have a filter for BS and marketing-speak more highly tuned than in other media. Consider making social networks a priority if:

  • You have something legitimate, and authentic that your audience might want to hear.
  • You genuinely care about the community and being involved in it.
  • The people in the community could potentially be customers of yours.
  • You have the time and the wherewithal to follow through on the commitment you’re making.
  • You’re actually enjoying being a part of the communication channel.

You should probably avoid it if:

  • The idea to get involved came from sort of “How can we lasso the younger audience” type of corporate pow-wow.
  • You’re going to use it as a platform to spew out the kind of marketing/biz-dev stuff that nobody would care about.
  • You’re in it for more selfish reasons than genuine ones.
  • You have to delegate the role to someone who doesn’t have their thumb on the pulse of your company, or who isn’t naturally involved in that sort of thing to start with.
  • You have the type of customer base that could care less if you’re on Twitter, Tumblr, Friendster, or whatever.

The whole point of these services is so that you can communicate quickly, succinctly, and honestly. They’re not meant for spam, or advertising. The idea of companies using these services as a platform runs contrary to the original intent. Only if companies are able to make a valuable contribution to the network is it really accepted for them to participate. If you ignore the spirit of the community, consider the downfalls:

  • Communication happens quick on these networks. Although most communities are fairly good spirited, -negative talk can boil over pretty fast.
  • Even though it’s an informal venue, like with every other bit of branding, it’s important that your message is on point.
  • A lack of commitment and updates can be seen as a lack of care, or ineptitude.
  • Not responding within the timeframe that is common for the service will be a bad customer interaction.

Succinctly said: If your heart’s in the right place, and you sincerely want to participate in the network, -go for it. Otherwise, it’s possible you’ll do more harm than good.

One thing is for sure; the more social networks turn into a giant advertisement, the less useful, and used they will become. Then someone will build another technology that is pure and innocent, -maybe a bit further out west.

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