Monday, April 22, 2013

5 Social Media Contradictions (and How to Manage Them)

Every day, both the benefits, limitations, and challenges of social media are tossed around like a virtual ping pong ball. Just last week, USA Today reported that social media was a "bust" for small businesses, while a report from Direct Marketing News states that social media spending is expected to double in 5 years. No doubt the debate over the role of Twitter and other social channels, and citizen journalism in the midst of catastrophic events such as last Monday's Boston Marathon's explosions, will continue for years. A quick search for the terms "social media" and "Boston" yields over 20 headlines on the first result page alone, with titles such as: "Boston Explosions-Information and Misinformation," Social Media Plays Critical Role in Boston Marathon Response," "Boston Bombings- Social Media Spirals Out of Control," and others.

Social Media may be too new to arrive at any easy solutions for now, whether it be breaking news or business branding. In the meantime, here are some contradictions I have found, with some suggested ways of approaching them.

1. Be authentic, but then's not about you.
We are repeatedly told that it's important to be authentic, and yet our posts should not be about us. They should be about YOU. You, the follower, subscriber, member. This is true to an extent -- our audiences don't necessarily want to hear about us all the time, including what we ate for breakfast or a chronicle of our every waking moment. However, they do need to know something of who we are, particularly if an "ask" or an offer is coming down the road. If I'm making a purchase, I want to know a bit about who I'm buying from, and then once I've bought something, I might want to know where they just travelled, or who else they are connected to that I might know, or what they are publishing on their blog...that kind of thing. A good ABOUT page that describes their interests, credentials, education, and accomplishments, is a great way to start the dialogue. A good consultant will know how and when to turn the conversation around with a potential client, and it's perfectly alright to say: "Enough about me, how about you?"

2. You need to market, but you're not a fan of selling.
The new marketing is storytelling. If you like to write and tell and photograph and record and video stories that are relevant to your audience, you and your brand will be relevant to them.

3. You know you should have a distinct strategy for each of your social media profiles, but you've got lots of other stuff to do, and automation is tempting.
It's better to start slowly and cross promote from one platform to another, as you establish them. That way, your brand grows organically, and you have some nice choices in what channel works best for what offering you have. Great tools out there such as Hootsuite and Buffer allow users to organize master dashboards and schedule social updates in advance, as well as view metrics and other tracking information. You can also set up alerts to monitor trends, people, and keywords, making your job as community manager easier. While a lot of automation is not recommended and can create the image that you aren't paying attention to your community, you can automate some of your updates, particularly those that aren't time sensitive. Twitter lends itself to automation, provided you add to the mix some direct responses, or replies, retweets, and hashtags when attending or reporting a live event. Facebook generally works best when you are posting live.

4. Infographics and visuals are the latest trend, but how does that reconcile with SEO and copyrighting?
Infographics are actually a great SEO boost. An infographic is basically "link bait," which is web content created to attract attention, shares, and buzz. A big part of SEO is building the number of inbound links that point to your website or webpage. Since infographics display information in a pretty package accessible to most audiences, the result in lots of inbound links back to your website as more and more people share.

5. You're reading that blog posts should be about 500 words...and yet long form copywriting is also on the upswing. So, how long should your blog posts be?

There are no hard and fast rules as to blog length, and most of the advice I've read is to say what you need to say in the best way possible. Generally, between 400-600 words is recommended, but the occasional post that runs longer is fine if you can keep the reader's attention. Some bloggers only publish monthly, but they write nearly 2,000 words, which their audience has come to expect. Others, like Seth Godin, are famously short when it comes to blog posts. I am a great Seth Godin fan, but I have to say that when he writes posts longer then 3 paragraphs, I don't find them as powerful or succinct. I just finish The Icarus Deception, which held my attention and was a refreshing break from the short form style he publishes daily.

So, what say you? Are there any glaring social media contradictions that you'd like to see resolved sooner rather then later? What kinds of social media challenges come up for you own a daily basis? Share in the comments!

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