Social Media is very expensive

Once upon a time, there was One world wide web where corporations and brands were talking to public, using a polished corporate language, reviewed by professional writers… and then came communities, each of them developing its own style, code and language.

Doesn’t it sound like the Tower of Babel ?

I actually find some insights from the analogy and recommend that brands approach communities as if these communities were speaking a foreign language.

It may be extreme, but taking this very conservative spin brings up 3 key learnings:

  1. you have to figure out who are these people speaking this “new language” and identify the ones that have taught the language to others.  In other words, unless you can find the communities and influencers it’s like you would be mixing Japanese and French trying to learn both concurrently… or mixing a financial analyst and a 12 years old conversations on the bailout.
  2. you have to spend significant time learning. There is no magic trick, no machine that will do it for you (I will come down to this in a future post; community languages are so dynamic that their context and semantic cannot be captured in a static dictionary). That’s why the industry-accepted figures on the minimal effort for any decent program in Social Media is one hour a day.
  3. you have to capitalize as you learn. Understanding your target communities, trust, relations within these communities is an asset, not a program.

Often, we meet agencies and clients that ask us: “there has to be another way”, “we just can’t spend that time in participating in communities, reading blogs, twitter, youtube,  facebook and whatelse…”.

Sometimes they turn to “one click magic box” but this ends up providing poor substitute for learning.  The more graphs they produce, the less knowledge.

Sometimes they challenge : “where is the return, the ROI” and although ROI can be set for some programs, most of it will stay as fuzzy as the ROI of an MBA, or of a friendship or a rollodex (the MBA example in the link is an interesting one; it does not value better decision making because of the MBA training and just the salary increase).

But the reality is: there is no shortcut.

If you want to know you have to learn and if you want to learn you have to spend the time studying. Doesn’t that sound familiar? I had the same dream when I started German. Now,  you can try to be productive at learning but this is another story.

One of my favorite sentence in social media comes from Anthony van der Hoek,  Director of Strategy and Business Solutions, The Coca-Cola Company:  “It takes years, not weeks to embed consumer conversations in an organization. Companies need to address this now or it will be a huge challenge to catch up.”.

Sounds like a reality check.

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