If you’re not using social media, you shouldn’t be selling social media

I was recently scanning the annual Top 101 issue of Progress Magazine (or is that monthly–it seems like every issue is the Top 101?!). I noticed a few ads for local agencies and development shops. I’ve also been checking out the sites of other agencies while planning for some upcoming changes at Brightwhite. Most everyone these days is claiming to offer social media consulting services.

Here’s the thing:

Next to none of these companies actually use social media. Those that do use things like Twitter or their ‘blog’ to promote themselves. They retweet the same accounts that everyone else is already following (mashable, scoble, techcrunch and digg). They offer nothing of value and they don’t engage the community, their followers or anyone at all.

On top of that, I’m told by a few people that work at local agencies that they’re actually prohibited from using Facebook and Twitter at work.

Seriously?

I get that sites like Facebook, when used at work constantly, can be counter-productive. But really? How do you expect your staff to learn about the value of social media and be able to pass this understanding on to clients if you don’t allow its use during work hours? You’re missing some major opportunities.

It’s generally agreed that CEOs and presidents of companies should be involved in social media. The number of those that actually are on social media is pretty low though.

So why on earth are all of these companies that claim to sell social media not drinking the koolaid? I think the answer is simple and twofold:

  1. They’re busy people and Twitter, blogging, Facebook et al are serious time vampires.
  2. They’re afraid no one will listen.

Number two is actually frightening for many people. The fact is though, until you actually take the time to engage your followers and share what you know, rather than bleating the news or blabbing on about what you’ve done (spamming, essentially), you’ll never truly get social media.

And that’s a shame, because these same agencies are the ones trumpeting the value of it without really understanding it. You can’t sell what you don’t do.

There are a few shining lights locally. Trampoline has a great blog, and many of their staff are contributing to it. Colour is doing amazing things with social media. Sadly, these examples are few and far between.

I hereby issue a challenge to all of the wannabe ‘social media’ consultants: start using the technology and start using it well. Trust your staff to use Twitter and Facebook appropriately, and actually move into this century. It’s not that I think we’re perfect by any stretch, but at least we’re learning as we use the tools. We’re generating business through Twitter, this blog, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn. More importantly, we’re able to take this experience, apply it to our client’s businesses and help them to generate results.

The next time your agency claims to be a social media maven, ask to see their blog and Twitter feed (to start). Check to see if they’re getting comments on the blog. Make sure they’re @ replying to their followers and engaging their audience in their tweets. If they’re not, maybe you should be looking elsewhere.

Previously posted on brightwhite.ca

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