Your Company Sucks at Social Media
I spend a lot of my free time goofing off on Twitter. It's probably my favorite hobby behind sleeping and hating myself. After a really cool group effort that caused Smash Mouth to eat the eggs, I was for some reason invited to be on a SXSW panel called Misuse the Internet and Make People Love You, organized by a good man named Nick Douglas. It was a good time, the other panelists were all fantastic, and we talked about, more or less, how the Internet gets played with and why. We only had an hour so we touched on as much as we could, from Oprah to @horse_ebooks to brands, though I feel like we could've done more than an hour on brands alone.
The entire concept of having your brand on Twitter-- out in the open and responding to people for everyone to see-- is almost universally done poorly. Not so much because it's a bad concept (it probably is) but it mainly has to do with the people behind the scenes. Not everyone, but the vast majority of people in these roles are very, very bad at it.
The root of the problem pretty obviously lies in the fact that these jokers in question were allowed to get through the door in the first place. Are you the hiring manager for your company looking to hire a social media professional but don't know where to begin? Do you just have a big, numbered list on your desk that says, "1) Get Followers, 2) Get Likes, 3) Money Shoots Out Of Computer Hole"? This article is meant for you! Are you currently involved in or becoming interested in a career in social media? You should read on, too!
- First of all, stop hiring marketing "professionals" to spout constant bit.ly links to barely-coupons and silly Facebook Like or retweet-based promotions, especially if you're just selling dryer sheets and toilet paper and shit. Nobody actually "likes" everyday things like that, and the fact that in some office building somewhere a board of directors gets presented with facts like, "Over 65,000 people 'Liked' our butthole-cleaning product this quarter," should make everyone involved feel a little bit bad about taking a paycheck. You have done nothing meaningful and you're wasting your life. If someone is having sex with you, they should stop.
- Stop hiring the most miserable customer service drones to be your company's spokespeople. Avoid giving the mic to people who are obviously sick of dealing with the very people they're trying to interact with. If your timeline is actively and constantly just apologizing to people for your terrible product, that doesn't show that you "care" or whatever, it just shows that everyone thinks your product is terrible, and more importantly, that in your ever-blackening heart you know it's terrible.
- Stop caring about essentially made-up KPIs and terrible metrics that measure nothing but how well your brand games a system that nobody else on earth cares about. The amount of followers, likes, and retweets your brand gets is practically meaningless. Nobody's surfing Facebook to see which major appliance manufacturer has the most likes before selecting a microwave, and No-Fucking-Body is going to go pick your brand of toilet bowl cleaner over anyone else's because you 'engaged the community' by asking if everybody was scrubbing the can for their March Madness party. That's bullshit, and you are a hack. Measure success by whether people are interacting with you or talking about your company in meaningful ways, such as by Real Feedback (the kind you didn't force into the funnel).
- Stop hiring dimwitted people who only sound qualified because they had the words "Social Media" on their resume. In fact, shred any resume or CV immediately where those words appear. Some dingus having a habit of Instagramming their lunch and/or liveblogging their daily ride on the Caltrain does not make them good at anything, despite the fact that they may think so. Never ever let any applicant use the word "virality" in front of your face. Running a video game guild does not qualify as experience for anything but running a video game guild. Just as having a DeviantArt page doesn't make you an artist, having your own Twitter account does not make you a viable human being in any respect.
Who should you hire? Pretty much anybody but those people. Seriously, go walk around the office and look for someone who is cool but bored with their current position and who can hold a decent human-style conversation, and see if they want to take a swing at it. Simply running a corporate Facebook and Twitter account is not a full time job and does not require a dedicated employee. All it really takes is someone with a little humility, some people skills, a sense of humor about their role, a decent enough grasp of the Internet, and and a couple hours each day to interact with the void, tops. Ideally-- and as long as your hiring practices hadn't allowed doofuses into your company-- this would mean most of your co-workers are able to do it.
With a few shining exceptions (which I won't mention so I don't sound like a shill), corporate social media efforts are not too special. Unless you have some genius pounding away in your company's basement on some clever bend that's actually funny or interesting, please do not help prolong this ridiculous phenomenon by paying a premium for a "Social Media Expert".