"Why Pay a Professional when Social Media is Free?"

Mike Mastando from Mastando Media provides tips and help on advertising, marketing, public relations, social media, and internet marketing during his seminar.

October 13, 2009

Social Media picture
"Why pay a professional when social media is free?"  The question shot from behind me, like a dart in the back, as I was walking back up to the podium. 

I was asked this in a recent seminar I was speaking at regarding Social Media. Let's recap for those of you not familiar with SM (Social Media). SM websites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, YouTube, Wikipedia, Delicious, and so on... there are literally hundreds out there.  The definition, however, (from Wikipedia, ironically) is a way to communcate and collaborate using Internet- and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many).  It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).

Okay, a pretty tecnical definition...I agree. Let's paraphrase for our benefit it to say that social media is a tool in the marketing mix that allows your brand to interact, engage, and hopefully resonate with your potential or current customers.  I like that better.  

How did I answer the question?  Let's go back to the seminar and pick up right where I explained what SM is and how it's used. 

Social Media, I began, is a critical piece of the marketing and communication of your brand, one which should not be left up to a novice employee.  "Sell" too much, you'll alienate your customers.  Provide little value-added content, and they'll get bored.  Neglecting to respond to a question and they'll look at you as unreliable.  Not responding to a customer-service problem, it's the kiss-of-death. 

"How much does it cost?" someone asks. 

Well, it's free, I say.  "It doesn't cost you one red cent," which is usually met with a delighted yet perplexed look on people's faces. 

"Then why would we pay you?" one savvy businesswoman asks.  

I tell them they shouldn't.  "This is something anyone can do, and I will be happy to teach it to you," I say, smiling.  And while you're at it, you can also do your own taxes, cut your own hair, and do your own sit-ups and push-ups in your garage and forget joining a gym or using a personal trainer.  You can also paint your own house, mow your lawn, and home-school your children.  I say it with a smile, very light-heartedly and most people begin to laugh out loud and shake their head. 

"But, you're busy running your business and don't want to go through the long learning curve," I say.  Most people nod. 

"And we want results, fast!" someone shouts. 

"Yes!"  I say.  "And you don't want to think about it, you just want to see a return on your investment," I shout, like a preacher in a sermon looking for an 'Amen!". 

"Right!" they say, almost in unison. 

"Ooops!" I fire back.  Long pause.  All the air gets sucked out of the rooom.  Uh-oh, they think.  "But," I pose the question..."who can give me the ROI of putting your clothes on each day before you go to work?" 

Longer silence.  Someone finally pipes-up and says, "You can't do that."

"Social Media is hard-to-measure in ROI, although not impossible.  You know that putting your pants or dress on is critical before you go to work, but you just can't conduct business in today's environment without it.  If you don't want to risk falling behind your competitors, it is my professional recommendation that you put your pants or dress on each morning before you go to work!"  I reply, again with a smile. 

People are laughing at how riduculous that sounds.  I am, too. 

The truth is, social media CAN be measured in ROI, but it's not the only measure.  When your potential clients respond and interact, share their delight (or disdain) of your product with their friends, or become a "fan" or "follow" your brand, they are engaging your company, and that is a beautful thing!  Each engagement is an opportunity to listen and react or respond to your customer, and that is the most important piece of what all advertising is meant to do.

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