Don't Take Social Media For Granite

The topic was igneous rock. Sitting atop the lecture hall, I was delighted to see my tuition payments at work this particular parents' weekend. The professor of "Dynamic Earth" was making what we used to call "Rocks for Jocks" both enlightening and entertaining. Watching him enthrall, alternating between videos, charts and real samples, I realized "dull as a rock" would need to be expunged from my list of pejoratives.

Without going all scientific on you (it was but a one-hour lecture, after all), igneous rock -- which accounts for 80% or so of all rocks on earth -- is formed by magma or lava, either above or below the earth's service. And when the magma hardens below the surface, it often forms granite, a marvel of geology that we all simply take for granted. More than just a bad pun, granite provides a nifty -- albeit rocky -- metaphor for some sturdy thinking about social media.

A Solid Social Media Program Takes Time to Develop

Because molten magma is really, really hot, it actually takes millions of years for it to cool, condense and form granite. Not that social media need take eons, but a successful program does take a reasonable amount of time to develop. Consumers are not necessarily hot about engaging with your brand, so first and foremost, you need to think through all the elements of the program from strategy to brand POV, channel mix to monitoring, content development to on-going execution.



I know this sounds obvious to you daily practitioners but it is often rushed through or overlooked by those new to social. We recently ran into a stone wall with a prospect who was looking to plan and execute a fully integrated social media program for a new product with extraordinarily ambitious fan-acquisition goals in under three weeks. Sadly, we decided to walk away from the pitch, knowing that the odds of success under these parameters were as likely as predicting the next eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Look Below the Surface for Ongoing Success

Although granite is formed under the earth's crust, it only became ubiquitous after millions of years of surface erosion and tectonic plate shifts. Rather than seek ubiquity through follower and fan counts, marketers would be better advised to look below the surface at true fan engagement. Having thousands or even millions of fans is essentially useless if these fans are not engaging with the brand in a meaningful manner.

Buying fans is easy; engaging with them is the hard part. These days, Twitter followers can be bought for under $30 per thousand and Facebook "likes" can be purchased for as little as a few pennies to a whopping $2 per. Given the ease of acquisition, it would be easy to confuse abundance with effectiveness. Engagement measures like comments on wall posts, retweets, link sharing and favoriting are far better indications of a successful social media program.

The Social Media Landscape is Anything But Static

It turns out that exposed granite is constantly under pressure from the elements, which can grind it down into almost unrecognizable bits of soil. And so it is with social media as competing forces vie to gain competitive advantage and grind each out of existence. Among these battles, the one between the mountain that is Facebook and the rising tide that is Google+ is already having the greatest impact.

Google+ established a 25 million-user foothold on the strength of its Circles -- a unique way to classify one's friends and associates. Not to be outdone, Facebook responded with a new way to differentiate between "close friends" and mere "acquaintances." Facebook also added a "subscribe button" which allows people to follow the public feeds of anyone, even if your'e not friends -- another feature that Google+ offered from the get go (see the pattern here?). And with the hopes of crushing G+ entirely, Facebook just rolled out an entirely new user interface.

But wait -- there's more. Google+ finally released its API to developers and just now opened up the site to all, which combined could prove to be the perfect rock for David's sling. Third-party developers like those that drive the features of Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Social Oomph, can finally integrate G+ into their systems, making it easier for users to post, track and manage all their social networks at once. With G+ usage down a reported 41%, these changes arrived just in time to remind us that when it comes to social media, nothing is set in stone!

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