Not every marketing vehicle is appropriate for you just because it's cool, trendy, new, or because a company you admire is doing it.
Greg Anderson has an interesting article today on AdAge about just this topic. And he actually has a funny anectode about showing up on Facebook and having his teenage niece ask "what are you doing here?".
Bad marketing. We don't like that term, but the reality is that it's everywhere. And there are countless upon countless articles, blogs, websites and everything in between promising that they can teach you, too, how to be viral and social mediafied and make your business relevant to millions by just putting your stuff on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.
Ironically, bad marketing is also part of the reason that people like my niece are leaving one setting and moving on to the next new thing where we're not clumsily asking them if they want to be friends.
So Can I Use This Stuff Or Not?
The answer is yes. But you must proceed with caution and understand these networks or risk ticking off all the people you so desperately wish to reach. Remember these things:
1. Social media is a conversation. Good conversationalists listen, absorb, and participate, in that order.
2. People participating in these communities are there because, uh, it's a community. They welcome newcomers but most are quick to spot the fakes and the posers and promptly ignore them.
3. Consumers - and your audience - are not dumb. Unless you have something that's interesting, relevant, or useful to them, they just aren't going to care.
So How Do I Know What Tools to Use?
I'd actually turn the question around and ask whom you're looking to reach, what you're planning to say, and what makes you unique. Then - and ONLY then - can you start evaluating how to get the message across. And you may find that some "old school" tactics are just as viable as getting yourself in a kafuffle to try and figure out a Facebook page.
But if social media outlets are really something you want to explore, you need to get out there and experience it for a while to build some credibility in the community. Get a Twitter ID and start following people that interest you or are in your industry. Have conversations. Go set up a LinkedIn profile and spend some time answering questions that others are asking.
What you'll find is not only do you learn what people are talking about and how they're digesting new stuff, but you're earning trust and credibility which can be a hundred times more powerful than a cheesy, badly run banner ad campaign (IMHO of course).
So what lessons have you learned about blending your business and new marketing channels? Share your successes and challenges in the comments and we'll do a follow up.