Everything I Need to Know About Social Media, I Learned from My Grandmother

Hello. My name is Amelia. And I am a digital communicator.

I’ve taken the long way around to get to where I am today. I first thought I would work in public health and development, but ironically that just led me to become interested in the communications field. Along the way, I also took a couple of detours to explore becoming first a chef, and then a painter… but I finally circled back to communications – this time with a strong focus on digital media – and that is where I have been for almost 10 years now.

I guess you can say one thing – having tried many other things, I know that I am in the right place. ‘Cuz I really love what I do!

What’s interesting is that I truly have experienced the impact of social media – not just to sell gum or vodka or get people vaccinated but rather to help me with the issues that concern me. So when my grandmother was dying and her hospice nurse never showed up, and I tweeted about it, and the hospital tweeted back and gave me a number of someone to talk with, and when I called, they knew me by my tweet and were determined to help me get help for my grandmother – it was in that very moment that the power of these tools became quite clear. It didn’t mean that I had to have a million followers or that I needed to tweet out the most up-to-date news instantly. It also didn’t mean that I had a place to go to get help that equaled, if not surpassed, that of traditional help lines and customer service numbers. It meant that in her last days, my grandmother could get the attention that she deserved to die with dignity – and all of that was initiated through a little platform called Twitter.

That’s why I work in social media.

And that is why I don’t tell every client that they should be in social media. It’s a responsibility to be in social media – a responsibility to yourself, to your fans and friends – and everyone has to own that responsibility to make it work.

So I am supposed to tell you what to expect from my posts on the SMQ blog. Well, I’m not going to promise you a constant feed of the latest and greatest social media news and information, or that you can come to me to solve your issues for how to get more Facebook fans. Buy media – that is what I will tell you. I’m telling you now to save you the time and the sleepless nights. Buy media. That will do it.

Ok, well, it’s not that simple so if you do want to discuss how to get more Facebook fans, I am certainly open to discussing the topic.

What you will get from me are some interesting perspectives and learnings from projects that I am working on and trying out. I love to test ideas to see what happens. I am comfortable saying, “I don’t know”… but I will always try and find out the answer for you.

As social media is a new space and much is still left unturned, I think this is the only way to be.

So here is a taste.

I find that people like lists – it makes things fun and pithy and easy to remember. So in the spirit of our favorite list-maker, here are my Letterman-esque Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Social Media:

  1. Social media cannot be “convinced.” There is a difference between making a case for social media and convincing people to implement a social media campaign. Whenever I am asked how to make an argument to senior staff and decision makers to implement a social media campaign, I will always suggest that using a mix of reputable data sources, (e.g., Forrester, eMarketer, and Pew) along with case studies to show successes and learnings is key. However, I will never try and convince someone to implement a social media campaign. This is because social media is a medium where things can get out of control, go wrong, and where the unexpected will happen. In order to ensure a successful campaign, everyone must have buy-in to the strategy. This ensures that if something happens – if there are negative comments or chatter – that everyone understands what is going on and no one can point fingers and say, “I told you so.”
  2. Social media is bigger than Facebook and Twitter. Oh, this is one of my favorites. And one of my biggest pet peeves. Throughout my discussions with clients and colleagues, I constantly find that people think that social media is synonymous with Facebook and Twitter. While these are two of the largest platforms out there and do have a significant portion of the social media audience, they do not represent the whole world of social media. There are numerous 2nd and 3rd tier sites and social networks that are worth considering and tapping into. There are also blogs and other publishers that want to share your content; and there are social media companies that work to engage these audiences. When planning a social media campaign, think beyond Facebook and Twitter to decide what the best strategy for your campaign is.
  3. Don’t forget the “social” part of social media. As a rule, being in social media means a commitment to dialogue and an openness to all views – both negative and positive. It is a transparent medium and the people who participate in it expect transparency. A successful social media program will not try and control content, will allow comments and conversation, will not pull down negative comments, and will also always respond to comments and questions. There are ways to put into place a social strategy that is well thought out and has all the right safety nets in place, but do not fool yourself into thinking that this is a controllable environment.
  4. Define your social media brand voice. Marketers, in general, are familiar with the concept of “brand voice,” or how a brand talks to its customers. However, in social media this concept becomes much more important as the medium is multi-directional, and any successful brand needs to identify not how they will talk to their customers but how they will talk with their customers. This idea of responding and communicating directly with a consumer is a game-changer as it has really never been done before in this way – and brands should really spend some time identifying the key attributes that will drive their posts, comments, and responses.
  5. Brands pay for fans. Yes, you read that correctly. Brands pay for their fans. What I mean to say by that is that there are both paid and earned media elements in social media. There is a rumor circulating that social media is free. It is clear why this happened – Facebook and Twitter are free but even setting up a presence on one of these free platforms requires an investment of time and resources. As previously mentioned, the ability to be active on these pages and to monitor and respond also requires an investment. And to drive visibility of these platforms can often incur media dollars.
  6. Social media is part of a larger campaign strategy. Digital and social media is one strategy among many that our potential channels that marketers can use to reach their target audiences. So when you are deciding what to do and how to market, include digital as an option and weigh its benefits and drawbacks as part of that process up front.
  7. Digital goals should be clear, tangible, and achievable. If there is one thing that you should remember from this post, it is this: Figure out what you want to achieve with your social media campaign! This sounds so simple and yet so few people actually do this. Ask yourself, “What does success look like to me?”
  8. Maximize the use of all of your content assets. For the record, social media does not require any new content or assets to be created. Let me repeat, social media does not require any new content or assets to be created. One of the valuable things about social is that it really extends the use of a brand’s or campaign’s existing assets and maximizes their utility. By using existing assets in social media, you can get extra mileage out of them. This could include posting a video PSA to video sharing sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, and MetaCafe. As a rule, do not forget the smaller sites because, even though they have smaller audiences, those audiences tend to be more niche, loyal, and engaged.
  9. And Optimize. Due to the real-time nature of the digital space, the opportunity to listen and make changes on an iterative basis while in-market is easy and should be taken advantage of. Do not implement a campaign and walk away until you get the final report. Check in regularly, look at the data and what is happening and make changes based on this information to improve performance throughout the campaign. Digital gives you this opportunity on a silver platter, so why not take advantage of it?
  10. To be clear, there is no industry standard for measuring and evaluating digital media. Moreover, and while measurement is important, there is also an intrinsic value to social that cannot, and maybe should not, necessarily be quantified. However, it is measurable and you need to make sure that you align your data with the goals that were set at the beginning of the campaign.


So that’s it. My Top Ten list for social media. Hope you enjoyed it.

Until next time.

This post was originally posted to SMQ’s MarketMaven’s blog

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