There is this view about Social Media that I feel is completely unfounded. That is this great big place to advertise and can replace everything else we do. I think Brands are being suckered with the hype. And maybe feeling since it is cheap, if done right it will cut costs. I also think they over value listening, and undervalue making great freaking products or services.
The fact is Social Media is very clunky. It is mostly one way. And even when you can have conversations they are VERY brief. Such as commenting on Facebook posts. Or the occasion someone replies back on Twitter. The word 'conversation' in Social Media is a misnomer. In no way is Social Media having conversations like we have on the phone, email, or live.
So when someone says it is about Conversations, I say What Conversations? You can not converse in any easy manner. People are so fleeting, they pop on make a comment and they are gone. Imagine having a real conversation with 300 sentences between two people. Now instead it is 300 people each giving one sentence and often not seeing any other part of the conversation!
Social Media is really a loose network of people, most of one's network are not close personal friends, but it does allow communication. Viral just means I post something that someone else says 'Hey that is cool let me pass it on' and so on. BUT since I only read/view 10% or less of the Tweets or Facebook posts due to the massive volume, just because you have 500 people in your network does not mean your reaching 500 people! In fact your lucky if you reach 100 of them. I still send direct emails to friends for things they need to see.
Listening is great. You can get a vibe. But you can't use listening to fix your problems. If your product sucks, it sucks. Do you need Social Media to figure that out? If your Sales Group isn't freaking at lack of Sales, or your Customer Service isn't freaking about 'problems' with the product before you find out via Social Media, you have an Organization problem!
If you can't drive people to your website, will a fan page really change things? Especially considering the huge limitations a fan page has vs. your website. And when only 10% of your fans will even see any posts or updates is your Social Media 'guru' telling you the truth or fibbing. There is a difference between having 1 million fans yet only having 50,000 visit your fan page each week or month. Which is the Social Media 'guru' telling you?
With Facebook exploiting all your content shamelessly and Snake Oil Hypsters like Pete Cashmore claiming the end to Privacy (so wrong), there is major opportunities for competition in this market.
Before you think I am a Social Media hater let me tell the good things:
I have found Twitter invaluable for Professional Networking and sharing of ideas. I have found Facebook as a nice site to communicate with friends but since I have so many it is not keeping me in touch or up to date with everyone, its very random actually. Kind of alike a Wheel of Fortune. Whoever posted to the Live Feed prior to my logging in and made the first page (I always have 300+ updates waiting) I see and react too. I never go to page 2. So I can't wait for a better technology to come out which is why I have hedged posting more photos since I don't want to have to upload everything else where.
I have been able to use Twitter and Facebook to observe how Brands are using Social Media, the good, the bad and the ugly. The successful ones always have something exciting like give aways or free content. Nabisco is giving away cookies for example. The unsuccessful ones such as Zappo's who have 1.5 million followers on Twitter but never talk about the brand, products, or specials. The last tweet I saw was pimping the CEO's Book! What a waste.
And I have been observing media. Media/News/Content is interesting. If I like a website I book mark it. I regularly go to these sites and read content. So seeing a Twitter feed every time a new article gets posted, or a post to a Fan Page in my Live Stream on Facebook for a site I already go to is kind of spamming me. Give me something different and new.
The one success I do see is 'Causes'. Social Media has been great to rally people for causes and NGO's. But not all wholesome. There are some hashtags on Twitter than even make me blush. People spouting hate, racism, etc. I hope Brands realize this prior to sending Ads into the Tweet Stream.
I also have seen some great give aways virally promoted via social media. Quizno's gave away 250,000 sandwiches last year. But you had to go to their website and sign in with an email. Often many music companies and acts offer free downloads for giving your email to them outside of the social network.
Lastly I know some companies actually have created private Social Media formatted websites to interact with focus groups and volunteers to discuss opinions and ideas in a very organized way. General Mills does this incredibly. So the technology is great I just think it isn't being used properly and that many companies are just lazy. They should be creating networks on Ning or proprietary platforms and inviting people.