Social media isn’t as new as we think – it’s kind of like telemarketing

If you’re thinking about social media in your business, or reviewing your digital strategy, don’t get carried away with the hype – most of us are unlikely to get thousands of followers; going viral tends to happen by accident or misfortune – or both! And (note to self) blogging will not make you an internationally regarded thought leader sought after by media.
Most of what’s written about social media focuses on the power of it, marveling at this brand new way of communicating and how it’s changed the world!  To be fair it’s a powerful force, but approaching your social media from this perspective will simply provide you with frustration at best or, at worst, outright failure.

We all need to step back, take a deep breath and remember that we’ve seen it all before - social media is a tool, like any other communication method that’s come before it. In much the same way that now, “EVERYONE HAS TO BE ON SOCIAL MEDIA! COME ON PEOPLE WHY HAVEN’T WE GONE VIRAL???” Imagine what it was like in the 70’s as telemarketing started to produce huge results. CEOs and marketing directors everywhere were frantically shouting saying, “WE NEED TO BE TELEMARKETING IT’LL MAKE US HUUUGE!”.

The similarity runs deeper though. What was it about telemarketing that made it so persuasive? It was the ability to have a one to one, personal discussion. Real human interaction, live in real time. And you could build numerous one-to-many relationships (albeit in individual one-to-one calls). Sound familiar?

And what underpins successful telemarketing (apart from a shiny happy call centre!)? It needs a clear link to the business strategy, commitment from management, appropriate resourcing, staff need training and at the end of the day, it needs time.

What makes telemarketing go wrong? If it’s not properly aligned to strategy, proper databases aren’t maintained and there’s no real understanding of the customer, scripts are poorly written, there’s no quality control, or it simply isn’t planned properly.

All of the above is equally true of social media.

Telemarketing was THE marketing force of the 70s and 80s but has largely become a victim of its own success with ‘do not call’ registers being established all over the world.  This coincidentally sounds very much like its new friend, the e-newsletter, once lauded as providing a direct, ‘personalised’ connection to your client… now all too often sent directly to the trash!

But despite how annoying we find it, telemarketing is still a highly valued and effective selling mechanism, 40 odd years on from its boom period. Techniques have evolved, technology has changed and access to CRMs and sophisticated databases has enabled segmentation and personalisation previously only dreamed of.

The same will be true for social media. Facebook will gradually become passé, although will clearly be a force for some years to come. In its relatively brief existence Twitter has gone from joke, to demonised, to revered and now has a slightly unclear future. And of course we’ve already seen the original social media giant fade into irrelevance, hello MySpace, where are you?

The point is, social media is just a tool, like any other. So as you look at how to use that tool, forget about the awesome world changing power - the millions of tweets every day, the multimillion Facebook users etc.

Instead, keep your feet on the ground, your head in the business and your eyes on your audience. Focus on your business, what’s right for you and how you can realistically implement social media. Focus on your customers and think about what will resonate with them. Focus on the writing and create good, clear, engaging communication. And give it time!