Social Media: Moving Forward

Picnic

I was recently asked to share my perspective on social media, and the challenges that I see facing us moving forward. The platforms are out there, being adopted by a huge majority of the population.

And because so many people (and their mothers) are using the social web, everyone wants to be on it. Selling. Promoting. Marketing. Talking.

And not everyone has figured out how to do that right. I find it frustrating, this huge emphasis on “social media” without any realization or understanding of the social side of it. The challenge ahead for all of us working in social media – be it on the agency side, as community managers, account execs, journalists or strategists – is to raise the understanding of how social platforms can be used to grow a brand long term. The challenge is to make “social media” not a buzzword, but something with a realized definition.

Too many people right now are focused on the amount of money each Twitter follower or Facebook “like” is worth and not focused on building relationships with their true fans and evangelists. Look at metrics, for sure, but the onus lies on us, as social media professionals to take those immediate metrics and then plan for the future. While it won’t be easy, right away, to convince business that it needs to look at social not just as a source of “viral videos” and one-off campaigns, but as a way to really communicate with the companies customers and clients. That using emerging media can be a plan for the future, not just for today.

I started the first leg of my career in luxury retail, working with expensive products and a demanding, but loyal, clientele. The clients may have began coming to the shops out of loyalty to the brand, but we all know, in this day and age, that you don’t need to go to the shop to get the new hotness. Select department stores, well-curated shops and the Internet have all made the necessity of heading to the brand’s flagship… unnecessary. I think back on one particular, now defunct shop in Boston. The customers who kept coming back, who spent the most money, long term, were those who felt they had a personal relationship with me, or my colleagues. The relationships we built with them helped to keep them not only coming back into the shop, but spending money at the shop, and sending their friends and family members into the shop. The same principles of customer service and retention can so easily be applied to the social web.

Teaching people about the possibility of growing these relationships, and making them work for them, and, in the end, getting them to really grasp the idea of “social media” is what I’m really excited about right now. And where I see the biggest challenge ahead.

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