There’s a common misconception that social media is a cheap or free way to get your message out there. Many of us thought that at first. After all, there aren’t many barriers to its use, most platforms and apps at least have a free version available. When you come from a land where the monetary bottom line counts the most, sure, the use of online social tools might look like your free ticket to even more eyeballs. Except… they’re not.
When I lived in corporate Calgary land as the Electronic Communications Advisor at ATCO, we ran a contest for the 2010 Olympics. It was also our first opportunity to play around with social media. We had a Facebook page, I got the Twitter account up and running and we signed up for some listening tools with Radian6. We didn’t have much lead up time to building our audience before we launched the contest. And guess what? The social media bits were a flop. Sure, it felt warm and fuzzy to be able to post about all of the kids we were sending to Vancouver for a day, but what did it really do in terms of contest submissions and at connecting with a larger audience? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
In a larger context, it was a huge success. It was the first toe dip in the online social water for a major Calgary company. And overall, the response from those we did connect with was positive. Having Radian6 in place during the campaign helped me garner a lot of the data I needed to show our management team the types of conversations that were happening online directly related to our brand. Not our competitors, not some other company, but US. Yes, in this context, big success. But… do you know the hours and the fight I put in over the years to get that in place? And during the campaign, all of the time setting up the profiles and condensing the information into something they’d understand? I’d look at tag clouds, rivers of information, growing keywords and I could see the trends and get a decent picture of what was going on. But then again, I lived it, ate it and breathed it. If it’s going to be of any use at all, you have to.
Social media is NOT cheap. And it’s not low-budget either. It works in two scenarios. You either need the dollars to buy someone’s time to invest in listening or you need your own time to invest. And depending on who you are or what your organization is, it might not be the right fit for you. Do the evaluation. Make the smart choice on whether your time is better spent navigating this world and ensuring all of your current processes are running as efficiently as possible, or if it’s time to amplify your message. You might have bigger fish to fry first.
Remember. You first. Your health and well-being. Then that of your company/nonprofit/organization, this includes the employees, volunteers, customers and so on. If you’re all good in the offline world, move forward into the online world. But never, ever, ever to the detriment of your day-to-day operations. The internet amplifies. And if you’ve got problems, it makes them worse (Note: There are scenarios where we’re forced into online conversations in a time of crisis, but that’s the exception to this post). Or if things are coming along swimmingly, more will come your way. That’s just how it works. And you’ll still need a plan and a team and resources in place. Real resources. Time and money to ensure things continue to go well and you’ve got the support you require to handle the growth.
So, not free. Not low-budget. And definitely not to be taken with a grain of salt.