What are we actually trying to achieve with social media?

By Posted in - Facebook & Measurement & Social Media & Social Networking & Strategy and Planning & Student Marketing & Student Recruitment & Twitter & Uncategorized on July 23rd, 2012 2 Comments

I have blogged before about the importance of objective setting in any approach to using social media. It’s something I spend a lot of time banging on about to people. Without clear business or organisational objectives underpinning our campaigns and activities, we’re in danger of just creating a lot of noise leading to a great many outputs, but no actual outcomes.

The work that I and my awesome team do really focuses on understanding the organisational objectives behind any kind of campaign and approach. We spend a lot of time working with our clients to work this out and be clear. Only in doing this can we develop strategies and plans that are measurable and, most importantly, actually deliver a return for the organisation. So, there are a number of trends out there at the moment that fill me with horror and fear for organisations getting sucked in by these approaches.

“Increase your Facebook fans by 1000s overnight”

I’m seriously concerned and worried at the moment by the number of companies popping up out there at the moment aggressively selling their service to folk, in our case this is often the education sector, with the promise of increasing the number of fans on your Facebook page by thousands, generating thousands (if not millions) of views of ads on social media sites, and growing Twitter following by massive margins. There is absolutely nothing wrong with campaigns that generate visibility and awareness but my concern is that this is all some of these campaigns appear to actually deliver. The metrics used to announce their success are purely based on fan and follower numbers, not anything that actually suggests a deep and meaningful engagement has taken place. For me, social media done well leads to relationships and outcomes, not just likes, followers and repins.

“Like us and we’ll do a good deed”

You know, if you can do a good deed, and you want to do it, then just get on and do it. Why turn it into a Facebook popularity contest?

This weekend a friend of mine shared a link on Facebook from a dogs charity. They were running a campaign that said something along the lines of ‘for every 1000 new likes we get on our page, we will donate a dog to a war veteran with PTSD’. This kind of approach appalls me. Just donate the dogs for goodness sake. If you can and have the means to do good things, just do good things. It’s a little like me pausing at the side of the road, arms crossed, shaking my head and saying “Well, I can help this little old lady across the road, but only if 10 people stop and pat me on the back first. Otherwise, well, screw her, let the bus knock her down.”

You should earn your likes and fans by doing good deeds, not do good deeds because someone liked you. This is putting the proverbial cart before the horse and, I fear more than anything else, is actually undermining what it means to offer support and assistance to good causes. It forces us to be lazy when we feel we’ve done a good deed just by clicking the ‘like’ button and I worry will have greater implications for the types of support people will be prepared to give. Yes, the charity may now have thousands more ‘fans’ than it has before. But are these the kind of people that will really get behind the campaign and really make a difference? Are they engaged with the campaign on a deep and meaningful level? Or do they now just have a huge fan base of people who think that doing a good deed is clicking a button.

“Like our page and win an iPad”

And this one is worse still. Incentivising people to like your page in return for a reward will without fail generate likes, fans and followers. But will it achieve anything more than that? How soon after will they ‘unfollow’ you again or click on that little cross and the ‘remove from news feed’ option. They’ll still be a ‘fan’ in a statistical sense, but are they really a fan? Are they even listening? Let alone ‘engaging’…

I’m not against incentive-based campaigns to create awareness and visibility, but they have to be firmly underpinned by solid objectives and a damn-good content strategy to make sure you maintain their attention once you get them there and ensure that their initial click grows to become a meaningful relationship with your organisation. You have to work much harder than just giving an iPad away to make this amount to any kind of reward. It’s no lie that content is still very much king. Incentives might attract them, but only content and great experiences will keep them with you.

Outputs vs outcomes

What we’re concerned with here, then, is the fundamental difference between outputs and outcomes. Generating thousands of fans and followers is an output. What those people go on to do is an outcome. Outputs can, of course, lead to outcomes. In the work that we do with our clients, we place greater emphasis on the outcomes and then look at the outputs that may form part of that journey. The outputs are the journey, the outcomes are the destination. Far too many people prioritise this the other way round. Why? Because outputs are a helluva lot easier to measure than outcomes, and because large outputs sound impressive when pitching to a prospective client. Meh.

More on this later this week…


(2) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Helen Thornber - Reply

    July 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Great blog! Especially the bit about generating followers with a competition… I won an iPad by following a company on Twitter and I love it. Unfortunately I don’t love them. I was only loosely connected to what they did and I only followed them to be in with a chance to win an iPad. They may have gained thousands of followers, but I doubt they gained the type of follower they wanted.

    If people do want to give something away I’m of the opinion it should be directly connected with what they do, that way the people attracted to the giveaway are more likely to be interested in engaging with the company whether they win or not. And like you say, unless they follow up with great content it’s never going to deliver the results you’d like to see.

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