The headline you read is fact, not a random statement, but the hardcore words from the mouth of a real, live, sitting down in a chair person.
Welcome to the new illiterate. But that is ok, if you accept and understand there are new skills to nurture and to develop.
The comment was made at a meeting last week with a local business that were unsure about whether they should commit to social media. I want to make it clear that I am not taking the role of ‘social media consultant’ here and planning a strategy based on inspirational quotes and tweeting photos of sunrises and sunsets from the local area.
The one thing that the company were interested in was that if they made an investment within social media, will it result in ‘£150k extra income for the business?’
That was the crux of the meeting and I had to look each person in the eye in the room and let them know that I wasn’t the person that was going to give them the answer they were looking for.
Social Media Doesn’t Change Anything
Lets make things clear, social media does not change anything about how your business operates. It provides businesses with a better way to enter a conversation and to build a dialogue. It’s just talking. No matter what size our businesses are we are all marketing.
One of the issues that businesses face (including the one that I met last week) is that there are too many choices, there are too many platforms to become comfortable with and to build upon. It does take an investment of time, much like any relationship to build fruition and not expect a significant return with limited effort (and ‘£150k extra income’ doesn’t happen after month 3 or 6 to then pull the plug). With any conversation, you have to be present and not rely on an armoury of automated messages based on, ‘it’s Monday, have a fantastic week,’ or ‘if you’d like to pop in to talk about your next project, we can get the kettle on.’ I’ll leave that to the social media consultants.
Anyway, what do I know about social media, I deleted the company Facebook page back in November 2014.
People spreading emotion works, not product messages aimed at the quickest route to making money (or £150k extra income).
Wise Words From Over 40 Years Ago
Alvin Toffler said in 1970, “the illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.’ This, to me, is fitting for where we are in 2015. The world is desperate for businesses to be educated so they can communicate with others in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The thing that hit me with the statement was that a company wanted to use a new channel that would effectively be used an advertising mechanism. If that was the objective, then it made me ask myself the question, “do you take the time to teach those who are blinkered with one sole objective, where the investment of time would be substantial?”
We are now in an age where technological literacy is needed to teach higher-level skills. This isn’t just about social media but the way we use ‘the web.’ Consumers have adapted far better to new technology and ways of doing things than businesses have. Just look at the motor industry. Customers are immersed in a new way of researching and interacting with the potential car they are looking to purchase and taking extensive knowledge from the online experience. When entering the show-room experience, brands are still within the 1990s that does not match customer expectations. Many businesses are still entrenched in whether they need a new rebrand starting with the logo on the homepage. The world of social media is not necessarily new, we are eight years into this and have to adapt in how we become more relevant to an audience who are prepared to stand alongside us.
A Reading Analogy
I look at it this way. Businesses are at different levels of literacy and to be able to get to Shakespeare you have to start with Mr. Men.
There are some businesses that think they can read better than they can and not be unashamed to stand proud and prefer George Orwell to Enid Blyton. The thing is, they have a problem in understanding the story, the role of the characters and the underlying themes.
Businesses are quite happy in proclaiming that they are comfortable with deeper novels, rather than acknowledging that they are more suited to short stories (for the moment). It takes time to create consistent content that is compelling to build an audience. Before companies can start telling everyone else to behave, they need to have a deeper look at themselves. It all comes to adapting to a new mindset that is slightly different from what our predecessors have been working with and applying in a different way.
This is the way that I look at it, if we can still stay on the reading analogy. There are many companies who specialise and are comfortable in genres. Those who are successful and the most well read have an appreciation of each. Let me explain.
A company may be comfortable within horror, thrillers, the classics, crime or humour in order to claim literacy. The highest level you can get to is to have an appreciation of the full spectrum and the ability to read widely. Some may create book clubs and chair the discussion. This has been earnt by having a deeper meaning. Some may create their own libraries by creating resources for others to learn from (take a bow Copyblogger and Content Marketing Institute).
The book genres can represent the channels that we become comfortable within. This could be advertising, print, social media, podcasting, blogging, video, but to understand how everything works on a deeper level, you have to have a wider appreciation of how the whole landscape works together. This helps to critically think about the role for each delivery.
The end goal is still to make profit, but there has to be an appreciation of the tools that can be used, the role that they play and the strategy that has to be applied.
I Think I Now Have An Answer To That Question
Coming back to the question at the top of the article, I now have an answer to the question “will Twitter result in ‘£150k extra income for the business?”
First of all the business has to understand that communication with customers has shifted. We are consuming more than ever, but in a myriad of places.
If a company wants to look at social media as a source of income there needs to be a change of mindset and to have a deeper meaning for what the company actually does and I’ll pull the Simon Sinek, start with ‘why’ out the bag here. This is my checklist that is prepared for the next similar question that is put in my direction:
– how long are you setting the goal to make £150k (we’re back in 2008 ‘will we be number one of Google territory here)
– why are you doing this (is there a clear goal)?
– how prepared are you to learn a new way of doing business?
– what is the overall vision of the company?
– how big is the company? Will responsibility be given to many or to few?
– how open minded are you to change?
– how will you commit?
– what tone of voice do you want to use?
– are you prepared to change a mindset from a campaign mentality to 365 commitment of serving others in different channels?
– are you ready to invest in more than a perceived route of advertising as a primary source of driving leads and sales?
– are you ready to embrace an owned media mindset and have total control, but be committed to?
– are you ready to present an authentic voice and not immersed in a product vacuum?
– do you want to change?
I now know I am now better prepared for when this type of question is asked.
The overall answer is down to a company realising that there has been a seismic shift in communication (within the past ten years) and it is the duty of every business to adapt and learn.
The image at the top of the article courtesy of J Brew