There has been a lot of talk lately around the concept of social media “analytics”, or the measurement of one’s reach into the social world. But this is a bit of a misnomer as social media is not really a thing to be measured but a community that requires participation. It’s no longer sufficient to do the occasional tweet or post and then sit back and measure the results – and arguably this was never ok. Social media as a thing is really a community outreach, and the focus should be on building and maintaining the community, not on measuring it’s effectiveness.
Kevin Fawley, in a short piece at Social Media Today, puts it this way:
There is a HUGE misconception that social media in and of itself is a marketing strategy. The truth is, social media is just a very powerful tool or platform (the ‘what’). Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. give us an amazing opportunity to run contests (the ‘how’), share quality content, engage with our customers, all to build actual human “I care about you” (the ‘why’) relationships that go well beyond the impersonality or faux-intimacy of typical marketing communications.
With this in mind, it becomes clear that for many businesses, the approach has been all wrong. While social can be a part of your marketing strategy, just like any customer building endeavor is, it should not be viewed as the marketing strategy. As enticing at it may seem to tweet and post your way to growth, it’s only a part of the process.
So how do you use social media to build community? The key is engagement, not volume. If your customers are listening but not responding, chances are you are not gaining market share, or selling more, or generating more good will. It’s easy to fall into the trap of old marketing – where you broadcast and hope your message is heard. In such a world, the broadcaster is usually not interested in the listener’s response, only in the message. So, by changing our patterns from broadcasters to listeners, we can encourage engagement, and as a result, build community. The two way street is a requirement in social media, not an afterthought. Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and the like should be deployed for the purpose of collecting feedback and not solely for broadcasting.