Social Media For Dummies - er - Busy Execs

Last Updated Sep 16, 2011 6:42 PM EDT

Social Media For Dummies er Busy ExecsEverybody's buzzing about social media. Unfortunately, you've got a real job running finance, marketing, sales, or a whole damn company, which means you've got zero time to figure out how it fits into your business, organization, whatever, right?

Well, here's a simple guide to help ease you into the insanely-overhyped world of social media, from a former executive who, these days, has to deal with all this crazy stuff.

First, here are three important things you need to know about social media, from a business perspective:
  1. Social media is media. It's new, and it's different, but for the most part, it's media. That means it relates primarily to marketing and communications functions like PR, branding, advertising, and of course, Web development. Lots of people will insist it's more than that. It's not. It's a news source and how public figures and companies create a buzz and get the word out.
  2. Social media is an expense, not a source of revenue. In addition to marketing and communications, it can also be a sales expense, i.e. customer service and support, as well as HR. Also, I don't think SG&A should increase to make room for social media - it's a zero sum game, i.e. the number of customers and eyeballs hasn't changed. And, I don't care what anyone says: as a revenue stream, unless you're a tiny company or literally in the media / advertising / entertainment biz, forget it.
  3. As a real communication platform, social media generally sucks. For media and news, it's fine. For any real communication, not so much. Simply put, it's a set of one-to-many communication platforms. In other words, it vastly overloads our already overloaded communications. Think about it. If everybody's blasting thousands of posts, updates, tweets, to thousands of followers, connections, associates, how in the world can anybody have the time to actually process even a fraction of it? They can't.
Social media is different from old media in the following ways:
  • It's more direct in the sense of one-to-many communication between publicity seekers and their fans without all the middlemen
  • It's more real-time in terms of promotion, getting the word out, and getting viral traction or feedback
  • It's largely unfiltered, so so-called information may include unsubstantiated claims and flaky rumors that can quickly impact your brand, and not necessarily in a good way, as Urban Outfitters learned
  • It's a new media channel for all the old media people; also where all the old media dollars now go
  • It makes it easier for con artists and frauds to rip off people
Most importantly, here's a glossary of social media terms and how they impact your organization and business:
  • Blogging. Blogging is a newspaper column without the paper except now there are three types: valuable content that people actually read, stream-of-consciousness ramblings that nobody reads, and stream-of-consciousness ramblings that millions of dopes read. And the comment section, in far too many cases, is how adults act out like little children in the 21st century. In any case, it's a PR thing.
  • Facebook. It's great for old friends, ex's, and stalkers to find you. You have a few back and forth conversations, just like email, then one person gets bored or busy and it stops, just like it never happened. It's also how a lot of bored, lonely, and an entire generation of people delude themselves into thinking they have a life. In terms of business, you can put up a sales and support shingle so people who live there can find you.
  • LinkedIn. If you're looking for a job, or in the job search or HR business, it's great. It's also good for connecting with a business associate you've lost track of who wants to connect back, so there is a network aspect you might want to pay attention to. Otherwise, it's usually someone wanting something from you, which is awkward. Your HR and recruiter people use it. Also your employees use it to look for a better job.
  • Twitter. Twitter is media. Period. It's for public figures and those who stalk ... I mean follow them. It's also a virtually real-time news feed. As for all that tweeting and RTing of all that content, nobody actually has time to read it since everybody's too busy tweeting, RTing, and thanking their followers. Twitter is PR. Yes, I know lots of CEOs tweet. Let's just say I wouldn't.
  • YouTube. Here's a prediction. YouTube will go down in history as the one platform that single-handedly took civilization down I don't know how many notches by dehumanizing and degrading children, animals, and people. Don't even get me started. It's also cheap advertising.
  • Social media marketing. The illusion of having a job, unless you work in a real company, in which case it's the same job req the PR or some other department would have gotten, but with a different title.
  • Personal branding. It's what job seekers do to clean up their online presence so prospective employers don't think they're lunatics when they check out their Facebook and Twitter pages, which they all now do.
Any questions, send me a tweet.
Follow Steve Tobak on Twitter or Facebook
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