Social Media Creates Dazed and Confused Marketers

by Matt Ridings on May 24, 2010

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A couple of months ago I began writing a simple blog post about the volume of client confusion I was personally seeing during my workshops on social media. This “simple” blog expanded to a workshop at the time, but the issue is big enough to open a public conversation on the topic.

Dazed And Confused

The confusion was not taking place with clients who were brand new to social media.  It was coming from those who had been to conferences on the topic, read books from the top social media personalities, and consumed leading social media blogs.  The information came from knowledgeable sources. The confusion was not dependent upon the size of the organization, but was more prevalent at the enterprise level.

They were ready to act on all the information they had consumed.  In isolation, the information was sound advice, but when they tried to create an actionable plan they found much of the expert advice seemed to contradict itself.  Upon investigation I found they were absolutely right… and wrong.

Know your source

You see, the problem wasn’t in the information they had collected, it was a combination of where/who the information was sourced from and the objective that the advice was originally intended to address.  One of the virtues of social media, and one of the things that make it so powerful, is the fact that it can be applied in very different ways to achieve different corporate objectives across many different functions.  The problem was that these social media experts weren’t delineating which perspective they were espousing so many of the tactics being compiled into these plans weren’t intended for the type of usage the client was attempting.

What do I mean by that?  Let’s just take various customer interfacing/communication roles in an organization as an example.  Within just that general framework you could include Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing, Customer Service, and more.  Each one of those functions can, and should, utilize social media in differing ways to achieve their objectives.  Sure, an intelligent company would insure that a holistic approach was being taken to make sure methods utilized in these functional silos complement one another, but the reality is that when placed side by side without any context of *function* the methods can be at odds with one another.

Big Picture Is Great, But So Is Getting My Job Done

What seems to be forgotten by these speakers and authors is that it is rarely a CEO with a broad corporate perspective absorbing their words, it is much more often a department head with specific functional objectives.  And while they may wholly agree with your sermon that it is important to break down corporate silos and see the big picture, they are more focused on getting their budget allocation at the end of the fiscal year than going to fight that battle right now.  You cannot assume that your audience will simply ‘grok’ how you intended for them to use your specific advice.

If I could offer one word of my own advice to both the social media experts and those who seek to use their advice it would be this; When it comes to practical advice, Social Media as a term is not a finite enough container in which to place your message.  If you do not define the audience/function for which your specific messages are referring you are creating confusion in a marketplace where you intended to be providing clarity.  This benefits neither you nor your audience.

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As CEO for MSR Consulting, Matt has the privilege to consult for a variety of progressive organizations ranging from name brand enterprises to nascent startups while leveraging his background as a creative problem solver and strategic thinker. Matt...