I’m on the fence about this one. In several online groups I belong to, issues surrounding social media communications strategies abound. There are endless LinkedIn discussions about how to improve your corporate Facebook or Twitter presence, how to humanize your company with Instagram, how to develop a social brand, and how to attract “real” followers instead of ghosts and bots. There is a huge amount of effort put into the maintenance of these online presences. More often than not, I’m left wondering if the payoff is work it.
Facebook has become a very popular marketing platform on which companies can make coupon or sample offers to the public, often in exchange for the individual clicking the “like” button on the company’s Facebook page. Company advertising and announcements will then be incorporated into the individuals News Feed, purportedly exposing them to more advertising than they would otherwise. Is this really effective? I’d love to hear the metrics on difference in sales and profits that this advertising strategy takes. I for one, have Liked many a company’s Facebook page. I’ve done it to get samples, freebies, high-value coupons, and to enter contests. I then proceed to hide the company’s updates from my News Feed so that I don’t get bombarded with additional ads. Once I receive the thing that I want (and in the case of coupons, I only get offers for products I buy anyway), I immediately Unlike the page. Rinse, wash, repeat. So far, my buying patterns have not changed. But how many people do respond positively, becoming regular consumers of the product?
The same goes for Twitter. There are some fascinating things going on with that particular platform. Professionals are having public discourses, opinions get exchanged, celebrities of various degrees experience foot-in-mouth syndrome, news bits get passed on. I do follow a couple of individuals/companies, primarily because they regularly post links to interesting business articles. A lot of the tweets, however, are completely irrelevant and I end up ignoring them for weeks at a time.
One of the local TV stations has been running internet ads featuring various young professionals and hipsters going on about the fabulousness of social media. One of said hipsters is a young woman in a headband and 1980’s style aerobics gear stretching on a yoga mat. At one point she says “I get all my news from Twitter . . . it’s about conversations.”
But is it really? Are Twitter and other social media platforms that encourage status update and single sentence summaries of our state of mind really about conversations? I’ve heard people make that claim before, but I’m not entirely sold on it. Certainly back-and-forth exchanges do take place, and can be interesting (or fascinating along the vein of a 15-car pileup). But can these exchanges, with the planning and posturing that is afforded by asynchronous responses, really be conversations? I don’t know. They can be fun, for sure. They also provide a way to give glimpses into personal states of mind through thought-of-the-moment type posts; this can humanize a professional and let their audience or clients see a more personal side of them in a controlled manner.
All of this can add a dimension to our perception of other people, but does it really work as a communication strategy on its own? Regardless how enthusiastic I feel about a social media platform at any given point in time, I’m always left asking that question. In the absence of other, meatier communication channels, can Twitter stand on its own as a way to connect with your audience?
I’m not sure. I don’t know if I’ll ever be sure. That being said, I’m going to start up an Up Front twitter account anyway – for all of those thought-of-the-moment bits that drift through my brain.