Technology can be like that classic Dickens’ novel: the worst of times and the best of times, all at the same time. Take social media. Depending on who’s talking, social media is either transforming the planet in all sorts of positive ways, from social organizing and crowd sourcing, or causing a drastic decline in literacy and civility.
The truth – like most things – probably can be found somewhere in the middle.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to social media and business marketing. An interesting piece in Harvard Business Review by Douglas Holt makes the case that “companies have sunk billions of dollars into producing content on social media, hoping to build audiences around their brands. But consumers haven’t shown up.”
Holt is the founder and president of the Cultural Strategy Group and a former Harvard Business School and University of Oxford professor. He believes that social media “has transformed how culture works and that digital crowds have become powerful cultural innovators.” He calls this “crowdculture” and while it makes it difficult for companies to compete for eyeballs online, Holt says the way forward is for companies to collaborate with crowdcultures.
He cites successful examples of “cultural branding,” including Chipotle, Dove and Axe. Why? Each of these brands tapped into a larger cultural trend and then provided online content to piggyback on existing psychological trends. These companies, of course, enjoy the luxury of multi-million dollar marketing budgets. If you work for a mega company doing marketing on that scale, I strongly urge you to read Holt’s HBR article, “Branding in the age of social media.”
If you’re like smaller and growing companies, a more down-to-earth approach to social media makes marketing (and financial) sense. For Intertech, this has meant growing our online presence by providing content that offers business value. We give away our expertise online but we gain by building trust in our brand. From blogs and white papers to webinars and participation in technical chat rooms, Intertech lets people know we’re here and we have something valuable to share. That’s invaluable!
Having a solid and predictable online presence also lets potential customers know you’re real and you’re here for the long-term. Even something as seemingly trivial as how many Facebook likes your page garners speaks volumes about how your company is perceived in the marketplace of your peers. Let’s face it, a thousand or more “likes” beats 50 any day of the week!
Building a respectable online presence takes time and effort. I recommend some advice that I believe originated with Winston Churchill, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” If you’re a small shop or solo consultant, maybe your best strategy is to write one blog post each month and to comment on other blogs related to your industry or area of expertise.
It’s better to start slowly and remain consistent over time rather than to burst onto the scene with all social guns blazing only to peter out a few months later (it happens!). But if you do decide to tackle multiple social media platforms simultaneously, be sure to provide different, fresh and valuable content for each platform.