Note: A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn on 29 September, 2014.
During the week commencing the 22nd September 2014, I attended most of the Social Media Week event in Sydney. While I’m on the Advisory Board and it sounds a lot like I’m thanking myself, I have to say the content was fantastic. There were some great speakers and panels and some vigorous (and therefore useful) debates on issues arising from social media in business. And the event itself was superbly run by the team at Rinsed and Evolve Social – well done team.
In terms of enduring take-aways from the event, I’d have to focus on two main areas for concern:
1. There is a tendency among business people to assume that social media belongs to, and is only useful for, marketing. This is a dangerous tendency and needs to be stopped NOW.
While content marketing strategies do help businesses connect with audiences and while social media make an excellent alternative to call centres for customer service, social media are useful for a range of business functions from strategy to operations, product development, human resources, distribution and product tracking, stakeholder engagement and even financial reconciliation.
Marketing has for too long had a stranglehold on social media, and this has, if anything, prevented its adoption more widely across business activities. Businesses owe it to themselves to think more creatively about how they use social media to improve business productivity. Even if this means they have to send the entire marketing department away for a day to think with a bit more autonomy about how they execute a social strategy for their business.
2. Advertising income is not a sustainable business model for any content oriented company. Ever. Get over it.
Not even the masters of clickbait (ie: BuzzFeed, HuffPo, etc) will be able to sustain their income from advertising because even with masses of eyeballs viewing advertising content, unless you can get more than 0.01% of viewers actually converting to sales, then the return on investment of advertising will be so small that it’s hardly worth the cost of the ad placement.
Reach doesn’t equal sales. Never has. Never will. The corporate world may only just be waking up to this fact (after 50 years of somnambulantly accepting the assurances of their ad agencies), but this is the next phase of communication development. Business must now improve its relevancy rather than its visibility. That means hard work for businesses in finding, engaging, listening to, and serving its customers in a relationship which probably is closer to a collaboration or partnership, than a traditional vendor-customer relationship.
Bring it on, I say. Too long have we been bombarded by irrelevant, irritating content. And just because something is popular for one group, doesn’t mean that others have to endure the inanity. Audiences now can choose when they want to access content, and how they want to access it. They can choose to be part of a fan base, or they can move to new communities. They can even make their own content. But always, audiences will be driven to deeper, more relevant content, even if production values are low. It’s not a matter of being noisy or widely visible. It’s a matter of being resonant with one’s values.
It’s time businesses understood that insightful, quality content is the most shareable content around. And social media is the medium through which the best content is shared.