Thursday, April 08, 2010

It's About Why, Not How

Watching the BlogWell discussions, I started having discussions with Tom Biro, Kevin Dugan, Anna Lingeris and Amybeth Hale discussed various points on social media. One of the points brought up is that social media should be about the why, not the how - and that there needs to be more strategy and tactics.

That made me think back to when I met Anna at BlogHer Food last year - Anna Lingeris - and fell in love with her because: she's loud and not afraid to shout out what we're all thinking (it's gotta be the Greek side); she works for Hershey's and Scharffen Berger; she likes college football; and, well, come on, she's a cute blonde. Plus, now I get to tease her as she is one of the sharper minds that sees how social media and public relations co-exist and what can be done for companies.

At BlogHer Food, though, I was talking to the head of Smucker's and telling him about my childhood memories of Smucker's Goober's PB&J in the jar (best invention ever). That as a little kid, that's what my Mom bought, and we'd end up eating it out of the jar. And, that we still do take a spoon and eat out of the jar. I think he was sorta grossed out by that, but he said that that's a great story.

So Anna handing out chocolate at BlogWell made me think about that: when we lived in Michigan, my Dad would sometimes come home with the really big bar of Hershey's with almonds. It was a special treat for us (makes us sound like some poor Depression family, huh?) mainly because we weren't a big sweets family (okay, some of us like sweets so there weren't much in the house). So for me, childhood relates to food, such as Goober's, Hershey's and the occasional mud pie from Baskin and Robins. Those are happy memories.

While social media is all fun and good, does it generate anything beyond discussions? Are there memories built from social media that will take people back to another time? Or is it more for adults to talk amongst themselves, share anecdotal stories and other things like that, but not much? Social media does create friendships - I have met many great women at BlogHer and consider a bunch of them friends - and know they think the same, but those relationships are definitely cemented from real world interactions, beyond the social mediasphere.

We all know the how in social media. It's this tool and that tool and this network and that network. But there is still the why - why are companies going to get involved in social media? Why is tool A or tool B the right tool for the job, and what do they hope to get out of it? What is the ROI / end goal for the company, and "being part of the discussion" is really not enough ... or have none of none of us learned that lesson from Nestle, who wanted to be part of the discussion - twice - and both times run into the bully platform of social media? (No, I'm not on the condemn Nestle bandwagon, but pointing out that being part of social media is not enough without a full commitment - and that is really not enough of a good reason to be involved in social media).

The issue for corporations right now is you have a ton of social media speakers - many who have no public relations or marketing backgrounds, but have (for some odd reason) been labeled social media and community geniuses - that come in full guns blazing about how to do social media. That is worthless, and does not help companies. Ask them why, and see if they can talk about any past successes - real successes that point to an agreed upon ROI and results - and then judge if what they are talking about would work for your business. And if that includes a Chatroulette, well it better be one helluva great idea.

And, at the end of the day, real world experiences are still going to trump online experiences. So factor that into your social media plans ... or really, your public relations plans.
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