Wetpaint and Altimeter Group just released a thought-provoking report about the most engaged brands in social media, with a listing of 100 companies starting with Starbucks at No. 1 and ending with AIG at No. 100. An interesting thing worth highlighting is that the most engaged brands saw the highest revenue growth versus those who chose to sit on the sidelines and experienced negative growth; the "wallflowers" as the study categorizes them. Before I get to my point, however, I want to note how surprised I am that the report lacks some smaller companies who most certainly should be listed, and high, like Zappos.
This study should stir some things up, and get folks talking about how they can improve their social media efforts. I've had this conversation before: How do you succeed in social media? It's seriously a lot simpler than many "experts" are making it out to be. Things have become overcomplicated when the key to succeeding in the social space honestly comes down to 3 things:
1. Be Human
This is the number one rule of social media and it's mind-boggling that marketers are still getting this wrong. You don't have to be a genius to understand social media. You do have to be human though; albeit a social one, but humans are social creatures to begin with and you wouldn't be working in communications if you weren't a little social. That said, the mistake that marketers are making is that they're over-thinking and over-complicating social media. The question I can't stand is how you should talk when using social media channels. Talk the way you would talk to a friend. If you're wondering if you're crossing the line or being too intrusive, think about whether or not a friend would feel you're crossing the line or being too intrusive. Ultimately that's what this is about: befriending PEOPLE (I say "people" instead of "consumers" because I don't want you treating them like faceless cattle; that's part of being human).
Think of it this way, before you walk in the office and your workday begins, you're all just regular people living life. You hang out with friends, go to the park, have barbecues, and play games. Instead of leaving your personal life at the door, invite it inside the office. Celebrate it. Because it's that aspect of your life that will allow you to succeed in social media. Conduct yourself, and your business, the way you would outside of the office, where you're -- well, more human.
2. Educate Yourself (Be A Little Geeky)
This really should be a no-brainer, but many marketers aren't taking the time to keep themselves on top of the hottest things going on in the social/digital space. That doesn't mean just reading AdAge's 'Digital' articles. It means really staying abreast of what's going on with tech startups and the like. Get your geek on by reading blogs like TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, and Mashable. And that doesn't mean handing that responsibility off to someone else. If you're ultimately the decision maker, you need to be the one with your ear to the ground, understanding what's going on and what tools you can leverage to help your brand. As I suggested in my last post, the services come and go, so you need to know what's wired, what's tired, and what's next. You have to train yourself in a bit of trend spotting.
3. Don't Do Everything. Just Do It Right.
One of the biggest key takeaways from the study is that of the four engagement profiles (maven, butterfly, selective, wallflower), selectives saw higher gross and net margins than butterflies, who were involved in more social media channels, but not as deeply. This goes back to being human. You wouldn't try to grill a steak, bake a cake, make a salad, and scramble eggs all at the same time. If you did, something is bound to go wrong; especially if you're not much of a cook to begin with. Even if you have the money to invest in every social channel known to man, you shouldn't. Pick a handful of platforms that you think you can excel in, and dominate them. The same rules from the real-world apply to social media: don't spread yourself too thin. That's why I don't have an account on every social site I've ever heard of. I know I would neglect the majority of them. I stick to the few that I know I'll be responsibly active on.
It speaks to a crayon strategy called Commitment to Conversation. If you're going to engage people in conversation, don't half-ass it. You have to be active, you have to be sincere, and you have to invest the time to continue it past introductions.
Do these 3 simple things, and I guarantee you success in social media. Anyone who makes it out to be more complicated than this is lying. That may sound divisive, belligerent, and accusatory, but it's true. Social media is not rocket science, don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.