Does your business have to be on social media?

One of the measures of social media relevance is the number of ‘likes’ you can get on the brand page. But like using megapixels to determine the clarity of an image, it’s probably the least effective metric of engagement.

Imagine you were a speaker at a convention. And at the end of your talk, the audience claps politely. They ‘liked’ your speech. But how many were truly influenced? How many were motivated enough to give feedback at the end of a session? Or were you just another speaker who filled a space for a short time and got due acknowledgment? That’s the trouble with just accumulating likes without aiming for a deeper connection.

Staying on the speaker analogy, what your brand needs is action. When people rally around or bombard you with questions at the end of your talk, you know you have touched a nerve, challenged their assumptions. There are people who ask for your card and want to stay in touch. They are the genuine fans, the ones you can build a deeper bond with. Even in a large audience of 500-600, you can hope for deep connections with just a fraction. The rest may simply not be interested in your ideas or moved enough to contribute or even stay in touch later. But that’s ok. One of the rules of brands that really go places is that they build a committed core – and it grows from there

The successful brand pages, the ones that have already got millions of fans use social media to drive their core to expand the base. Look at the Red Bull Facebook page. It literally tells you on a day to day basis that the brand is into adventure and extreme sport and let you know if some thing’s happening close to you. The other thing that Red Bull expends a lot of energy on is to recruit brand ambassadors whose job is to throw Red Bull parties. The profile of the brand ambassador is sharply etched – they need to be active, social and fun loving individuals with entrepreneurial and leadership qualities. Helping people have fun is their job.

Does it then mean that social media is largely for brands that have the potential for a social connect, as opposed to those which don’t? In a sense, yes. Trying to be social when your product and market are inherently not is a lot like trying to be an extrovert when you are an introvert. You end up looking like a wannabe who is trying too hard and that actually gets you more pity than social mileage. For example, here’s the BP America Facebook page. Every single post gets criticism and angry activists attacking the company’s policies, practices and profits. These are cuts that go really deep. It’s the equivalent of having graffiti right next to your suave advertising message. Every fact is thrown back, heckled and stamped upon. It’s a PR disaster that does nothing to improve the company’s image – even though there are over 300,000 ‘likes’ for the page.

The simple lesson is that social is not for every brand – and some brands are safer staying away from the social arena. It’s like Principals gatecrashing the dorm party. They aren’t welcome and everyone lets them know it!