I got a call from a friend who’s going to pitch some social media work and we got to talking about what direction he wanted to take the conversation. It raised some excellent points that many fail to see unless you’ve been through it. I’ve used this recipe in the past and it has worked for me.

Obviously you always want to start the conversation with: “What are your goals?” and “How much is budgeted for this project/relationship?”. In most cases you’re talking to someone who has read an article on social media/has at least some base knowledge, and wants to utilize the channel.  But don’t assume this is the case. Ask about their level of experience in regards to social media. (For the purposes of this post, I’ll assume an average level of awareness.)

I then tell them about the three ways businesses use social media to impact their business starting with search engine optimization. (This is a little less academic than the four – 1, 2, 3, 4 – levels of online relationships that I also walk people through.)

  1. SEO – By generating more content with a blog, Facebook and/or Twitter, you can increase your search results ranking. This will help your rankings but if it’s not quality content, the site will not be engaging.
  2. Distribution – You can use social media as a mechanism to broadcast updates (special offers, events, etc) about your business. Think of this as PR and MarCom.
  3. Relationships – You can ultimately use social media to establish a relationship with your customer base. This is done by addressing their comments and questions left on your blog, fan page and/or Twitter account.

Did you notice that it didn’t get social until the 3rd one on the list? Up to you if you want to mention this . . .

Then, based on their stated goals,  you need to review the following with them:

Cultural match – Does their culture match their goals? If they want to develop deep relationships with their customers but their culture does not embrace transparency; it won’t work. (And guess whose job it is to tell them?) Obviously you won’t be able to wave the magic wand and determine what the culture is like. You’re going to need to do some internal/external interviews. Not easy to sell but completely necessary if they really want to develop deep online relationships.

Strategist vs. tactician – You’ll find many people wandering the business landscape believing that the strategy and tactics will flow out of one individual. They believe this because marketing is structured the same way . . . oh wait . . . uh. I have no idea why they believe this. Most likely they don’t. They’re just trying to save money because, you know, his social media thing is just a fad! A fad like the Internet and the wheel and fire! Make sure you know who you are and sell yourself appropriately. (This post is obviously focused on the strategist.)

Time – Everyone underestimates the amount of time social media takes. Remind them of the term social in social media and they will start to understand why it takes so long. Creating crappy content takes an enormous amount of time just to fulfill the SEO & distribution needs. If they want a social relationship imagine how much time a conversation takes. A one to many conversation! (Why do you think people text message each other? They don’t want to talk to you; they want to push info.)

Passion – If the client wants to be create relationships, the content creator needs to be someone who is most passionate about the subject matter or the business vertical. Could be the CEO. Could be a fan. But they better have passion and perspective if they’re going to build relationships. IT AIN’T AN INTERN! I touched on this in The Plecostomus and the Myth of the Social Media Guru.

These are some guidelines that I’ve found to be core to starting any level of engagement. Social media fails in businesses because some or all of these items are ignored. Would love to hear from anyone who may have had different experiences.

Why does social media fail?