Using Social Media Effectively Requires That You Take It Seriously

Keith McBride on July 25, 2016 in Marketing

(Photo by Jason Howie)

I was at a conference last month, and something that struck me as very odd happened during one speaker’s presentation.

She was talking about (among other things) the importance of calling attention to the community development success stories in your town & neighborhood, and her first and most emphatic piece of advice was:

“Social media.  Use it.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat.  Learn them, get to know them, get good at using them.”

Not surprising.  I’ve heard the same advice given to business owners and just about anyone else who cares about being visible.   Good, bad or indifferent, that’s how the world of media and communication works today.  Adapt or die.

And I’m sure everyone who was sitting around me has heard it before, too, and they probably understand and agree with the importance of social media.  Yet, when I talk with business owners, or even other community non-profits, there are always questions about how to use social media effectively to drive business traffic, and many admit to struggling with social media.  Everyone knows that in order to be effective you have to post regular, worthwhile content.  The most common failure is that the user just “didn’t find the time.”

Why not?  If marketing is important to the business/organization, and everyone knows (or has at least heard) that social media is critical to successful messaging, then why does it get back-burnered for days on end?

Of course, what the presenter said was not in any way odd.  Nor was the audience’s accepting reaction to her advice.  So, at this point, you’re thinking I lied in my first sentence.   I didn’t.  I promise.

Here’s what was odd:

Not five minutes later, as she was concluding and thanking everyone for their attention, the presenter took out her smart phone, and held it up to the crowd.

“I want to take a picture of you guys for my Instagram,” she said.

The crowd giggled.

Was that funny?  It wasn’t a joke, I’m sure.  I have no doubt that the pic of the audience ended up on her Instagram, and probably hit a few other of her social media accounts, as well.  And she no doubt took advantage of the opportunity to talk about her presentation at the conference, punctuated by a picture of 100 or so attentive people in the audience.

So, why the laughter?

Perception.  So many see social media as a toy, or a time-waster.  Something you fiddle with on your phone while you’re in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  Certainly not something that’s done on-the-clock.  It’s something young people do to pass time, to share funny memes and videos of cats being adorable.   Someone taking a picture to post on Instagram made the crowd giggle because it broke the professional/educational aspect of the conference presentation and turned it suddenly into super-happy-fun-time.

If that’s your perception social media, then you can’t possibly use it seriously or effectively.  And it’s easy to see why it would constantly get pushed to the back burner.