ToolsVsStrategy Social media is big right now; it’s a low hard cost tactic leveraging tools that run substantially less than comparable traditional media, but without some consideration, your efforts could be little more than just more noise.

What we’re seeing is executives at organizations large and small recognizing that they must do SOMEthing, and they want to do something NOW. Many are grasping at straws that predictably will lead no where – it’s the price of education as an entrepreneur I suppose, but it does not have to be.

There is a growing number proven tactics that can reduce the time to develop and deploy an effective strategy – corporate cultural changes, education, consulting and of course, hiring top talent.  Gone are the days when you hand it off to an intern or a young family member to ‘see what happens’ because we now know what happens when you do that – the effort is disconnected from real-world business objectives and it fails to generate an ROI that has any kind of resemblance to a sustainable business practice.

Under full disclosure, I did not come up with this idea or the initial list myself – I came across a post in the Q&A section of the CMO Group at LinkedIn which was posted there by Daryl Toor from AttentionGroup.com

The items in the post are pretty much Daryl’s with my edits, comments and thoughts on the enterprise application of social media embedded – wished I had thought of the list, but more than happy to give Daryl credit for work well done and build on it from another angle.

Social Media Cannot –

1. Replace existing PR and marketing No matter how great your website, video contest, blog, Twitter strategy, etc. you still need publicity to drive awareness to your presence or you may end up with a tree falling in the forest, and nobody hearing it.
2. Substitute for an integrated marketing strategy A Twitter post or a Facebook update that announces your weekly specials is not a marketing strategy – it’s noise and will be ignored.
3. Succeed without top management buying-in Social media requires a way of thinking that includes willingness to actually listen to customers, prospects and stakeholders.  You need to be willing make changes based on feedback, and trust your staff to talk to customers with their interests at heart. 
4. Be viewed as a short-term project or a single campaign Social media is not a one-shot, set and forget deal. It can be used as part of an overarching campaign, but the power and effect will not be realized unless there is a longer term commitment to openness, experimentation, and change.  It requires time; the success stories you are hearing about today we’re not started last week – they were started last year or several years ago.
5. Produce meaningful, measurable results in the short run A complaint about social media is that it can’t be measured – this is a red herring in a marketing application.  There are many things that can be measured: including engagement, sentiment, and whether increased traffic leads to sales.  Applications in lead generation and customer service can have relatively quick results however.
6. Be done in-house by the vast majority of companies (unless they are really talented and came from a social media background) A successful social media marketing presence integrates social media into virtually all the elements of the marketing effort; online / offline advertising, SEO and PR.  Opinion and theory are no match for experience, and the best social media marketers now have several years of experience incorporating interactivity, blogs, forums, user-generated content, and contests into online marketing. 

Application for other department (sales, customer service, etc) will require education, implementation and monitoring.

7. Provide a quick fix to the bottom line or a tarnished reputation When a well-loved company like Zappos, or Google employs social media, its loyal fans and followers pay attention.  You’re not Zappos or Google. 

With the economy the way it is, there is a lot of desperation in many corporate suites and many executives seem convinced that a social media campaign can provide a quick fix to sagging sales or reputation issues – bad call that one.

8. Be done without a realistic budget Building a site that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content, and perhaps also includes e-commerce requires investment – as in most business investments, the investment itself will be required BEFORE it produces results.  Doing it on the cheap will get cheap results.

Your budget may include staff, agency time, monitoring tools and some for additional infrastructure – ask a professional.

9. Guarantee improved sales or increased market influence Set realistic goals with milestones along the way, not losing sight that the overarching end game is increased revenue, or lower costs – ROI components.  Big follower and friend counts do not translate into revenue without regular care and feeding.
10. Be done by "kids" who "understand social innately" I hear this one a lot from experienced businesspeople who should really know better.  Experience in business is something a younger crowd will lack; attention to ROI is not a concept they teach in art school to creative types (but a creative on staff is in my mind essential). 

Daryl suggested that “You can climb Mt. Everest without a sherpa guide, but why would you? Experience and perspective can make the trip easier, or even save your life.” – I agree and unless you hired an industry person to come in-house, trying to run a social media project without experienced consultants will often lead to burning through the initial investment without the desired outcome. 

Once that happens, many executives will decide that social media doesn’t work – and they’d be right.

Daryl, your list is excellent!  Thanks for posting it!

Image Courtesy Intersection Consulting on Flickr