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Social Media and the Solution to Your Problems

By: Guest | February 23, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Ken Mueller.

My wife is trying to kill me.

She just read this book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, and apparently one of the reasons French women don’t get fat is because they drink a lot of water.

OK, they do a lot of other things as well, but my wife’s big takeaway was: Drink a lot of water.

As a result, I feel like every time I turn around, there she is, handing me a glass of water.

Got a cold? Drink more water.

Got a headache? Drink more water.

I’m waiting for the day I slip on the ice and break a leg. I know she’ll try to hand me a glass of water as if it’s the cure-all.

Now understand: I’m rapidly approaching my 50th birthday. Drinking too much water, while possibly good for my health, also has other implications which probably shouldn’t be discussed here.

It’s like all those diets – the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, and so on. Back in the 70s my dad even tried the grapefruit diet as a way to lose weight fast. He ate nothing but grapefruit for weeks!

Fad diets come and go. When we discover something new, we get excited. We latch on to each next big thing as if it’s the only thing. That’s understandable, and that’s what many have done with social media and some of the specific platforms within social media.

Need more sales? Use social media. Need a job? Use social media. Need to grow your business? Use social media. There was a time when folks were shoving social media down our throats as if it was the cure all. It’s not a magic bullet. Nothing is.

On the other hand, we’re at a point where social media is no longer a matter of “Should I be there?”

As Gini Dietrich recently said in a comment over on one of my blog posts:

“With all the changes happening in search right now, if companies aren’t using social media, they’re going to get lost in the shuffle. To this point, I’ve been pretty diligent in having clients use social media only if it made sense for their industry (for instance, our oxidizer client shouldn’t be using Twitter). But, with changes at Google, we’re going to have to look at Google+ and how it affects search and our rankings. It’s not a nice-to-have in 2012. It’s a must.”

While social media is not a cure-all, a strong social online presence (and this includes your website and blog) might be the most important thing in shaping your business for years to come.

The one-way nature of traditional marketing means our messaging is a reflection of who we are. It is shaped by the culture of our business. But the two-way nature of the social web changes everything. Yes, our messaging is shaped by who we are, but if we approach it properly, our social presence will also profoundly shape us and the way in which we do business.

Drinking water may not cure everything, but odds are it will have a positive effect on your health. I don’t care if you are fat or a French woman (and according to the book, you can’t be both) your social presence can make your business healthier. Notice, I didn’t say wealthier, though that might happen as well.

When you go online, you can tell the difference between a company that views social media as merely a set of tools for delivering a message, and a company that has adopted the social mindset into the core of business model and operations.

It’s all a matter of perspective, mindset, and expectations. What are your thoughts?

Oh, and if you need me, I’ll most likely be in the bathroom.

Ken Mueller combines his 30 years of experience in the media industry in Inkling Media. Follow him on Twitter @kmueller62.

61 comments
janwong
janwong

LOL this is definitely an entertaining post on water / social media. True enough, there are tons of social media 'experts' out there swearing by the power of social media as if it is a magical potion. The thing is, water may not be the cure to everything, but it is a necessity to us, which also makes social media an important component in businesses today simply because it is a very powerful communication tool, not a cure. Now I'm off to get a glass of water ;)

katskrieger
katskrieger

Love this. My mom always says you should drink half your weight in ounces of water every day. I try valiantly and usually fail.  LOL

Social is a must, but it can be a struggle for some, especially with small biz or lean and mean co's like mine.  I always struggle with perfecting content, figuring out how best to engage, and finding time on top of an already full plate. But nowhere do I think I should not be engaging. In fact, I recently had a passionate discussion with my mom about why her biz was not on FB and was thinking about @KenMueller and his super tips then. :-)

geoffliving
geoffliving

Drink more water. Amen! I have to pee now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I'm not French. I'm not fat. But I do drink a lot of water. You should listen to your wife.

@Quartz164
@Quartz164

I just poured water on my iPad...thanks a lot Ken.

Nice post. I agree on all acounts. As someone noted on your blog today, at some point it's not social media marketing, it's just marketing. Social media platforms are becoming a must marketing medium kind of like newspapers were the cost of entry for car dealers 10 years ago.

jenzings
jenzings

This made me giggle--which I think distracted me from what the message is. Are you saying you agree with Gini, that social is a must-have? Or that those who simply view social as a "set of tools" for delivering a one-way message would be better off *not* having a social presence?

I tend to disagree that every business must be on social. If a company isn't interested in engaging, or if their customers aren't there, or if they don't have the time (or money) to do it right, then it shouldn't just be a check-box.

LindsaySouthwick
LindsaySouthwick

I like the lead-in a lot and it's a good post overall. One quibble: in fourth-to-last graf, should be 'effect' and not 'affect.' Sorry to be that guy but it's a peeve of mine.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

What this tells me is you can write the best lead ever.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jenzings OF COURSE he agrees with me! Do you think I'd let him blog here if he didn't?

KenMueller
KenMueller

@jenzings Yes on both counts. I agree with Gini, that it's imperative to be on social, if you choose the right channels. Having said that, businesses need use the accounts they create, and use them properly. So yes, they need to be on social. But in the right way. I don't think there are any businesses whose customers aren't on social. They might not be on Facebook, or Twitter, but they are somewhere. (And most ARE on Facebook at this point). And I also don't buy the argument of not having enough time or money.

SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS

 @KenMueller I thought that this post was genius in that you were able to segue exquisitely from thin French women drinking water to using social media in business.  And you really pulled it off well!!  The most profound line IMO? ..."While social media is not a cure-all, a strong social online presence (and this includes your website and blog) might be the most important thing in shaping your business for years to come"

And, we need to cut @ginidietrich some slack for her cute and quippy comment here...you have to admit that the quote by @ginidietrich  that you referenced in your post really WAS pretty awesome...

Glad I stopped by today...Spin Sucks is always fun and you, @kenmueller have a way of making it even more fun!

Claudia

jenzings
jenzings

@KenMueller Hm...I think there are quite a few small business owners out there who would disagree with the time/money issue. Many of them are handling practically all aspects of the business themselves. They have small shops and maybe one, two, or a half-dozen employees. A few have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts--and of course a website--but there are only so many hours in the day. They are stretched for time, and given their margins, they don't have a lot of money to pay anyone. Most know that they "need" to do this. But they do struggle at finding the right balance and yes, the time.

And I'll be honest--I still think that for places like small coffee shops, or the artisan chocolate place I'm familiar with--local press and word of mouth are going to be much, much stronger drivers of business and sales. And that's where their attention should be.

I also think that we tend to exaggerate a bit the extent to which people are "on" social media. We're on these networks all the time. But I know plenty of people who signed up for Twitter and haven't touched their accounts in ages. My parents aren't on Facebook or Twitter. I have plenty of non-social network friends who dip in and out of FB and then go off-grid for a while, then come back. I'm not saying social isn't important. I am saying that we need to be cautious on how much we assume "normal" people are really and truly active on these channels. I tend to suspect it's far more fluid than we think.

Not long ago, I saw a report that teens are heading to Twitter because they can lock their profiles and use fake names--basically getting around the parental monitoring of Facebook. I also saw an article on the resurgence of MySpace accounts. Add in Pintrest, YouTube, and who knows what else--at some point, businesses--especially small businesses--are going to say "enough."

And I think consumers will too.

KenMueller
KenMueller

 @adamtoporek  @jenzings  @ginidietrich But i think a lot of it comes down to a definition of social. I'm talking about social in general, not a specific tool. And I think that social can be done incredibly well without it being a time suck. Let's hit it from a customer service stance (see how I draw you in?). We have phones and email and other things which we use in our businesses. We don't ignore them when customers call. If we can provide better channels for customer service, wouldn't we want to do that? We don't think about answering the phone as a time suck, for the most part. Or email. It's part of what we do. Social is the new face of customer service, more than it is marketing. 

Adam | Customer Experience
Adam | Customer Experience

 @KenMueller I think you and @jenzings  both make good points. I would actually lean more towards her time argument (in a lot of cases, not all) except for the new game changer: social search. As you and @ginidietrich point out, that is the change that makes social a "must" for a lot of companies where it wasn't before.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@jenzings Well, here's the thing, we hold social to a higher standard. Remember, Facebook is only one channel. We can talk about how many people read print, or watch TV, but they are watching how many different channels?

And, when I talk "social", I'm including your entire online presence, including your website. You know how many businesses don't have websites, or are crappy? or are static? This is 2012, look at what is happening here on SS. This isn't a website, it is a "social" place. This is a big part of it.

jenzings
jenzings

@KenMueller You are correct that 60% "are there." But, how often are they there? That's key. My mother in law is on Facebook--but she dips in once every few months or so. Please don't misunderstand me--it's not that I don't think social is important. It is.

I just think we all need to be uber-cautious about making assumptions, particularly assumptions based on *our* usage patterns and not those of the typical person--whomever that may be.

jenzings
jenzings

@KenMueller LOL. I kind of had that feeling after I posted...

PS--tell your wife it is possible to drink too much water, seriously! It's very rare, but over-hydration can actually be harmful. Throws your body chemistry out of whack or something...

:-)

KenMueller
KenMueller

@jenzings Well I guess we we will have to disagree. Locally, the clients you are talking about are the ones with which I work. Small independent businesses, solopreneurs, mom and pop businesses where they have one or two people doing everything. They are finding that social media is a game changer and levels the playing field for them. Our city has three very active coffee shops, like you mention, and all of the have social at the top of their agenda. One of them is blogging, and all three are using FB and Twitter. None of them can afford print ads. And, take a look at declining readership for newspapers and magazines. We had two daily newspapers in our city for decades, or more. It got so bad the two had to merge a year or so ago, and the result is a newspaper that is thinner than either of the previous ones, with declining ad support and readership.

And you say word of mouth. That's exactly the point. That is what social media is. It is more word of mouth than any other form of marketing or advertising. The mindset of this is what is needed. You show people the tools, you teach them how to use them, and they become indispensable. The idea is that if you believe that social media is the way to go, and that it works, you will MAKE the time for it. And for most small businesses, it's more an issue of time, because there is no major financial outlay, as they are doing it themselves in house. It's a matter of budgeting time. One thing i do with clients is go over their time management and time budgeting, and show them how to work it in, and what they can eliminate.

Everyone uses social networks differently, based on their own platform, but people are there. We are spending more time there. AND we DON'T want to be sold to. Which is why I advice businesses not to sell too much. It's a presence. An online extension of who you are in your brick and mortar presence.

And while your parents aren't on FB, about 60% of all Americans are. That's huge. Especially when you then knock out all the folks under 13 who aren't supposed to be there, and all the older folks who don't even have computers. The percent increases. And continues to grow. Not to mention LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on. There is no medium that can reach all of your audience, but social might just be the most cost effective means to reach the most folks.

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