Facebook, LinkedIn, blah blah blah

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I confess, I spend far too much time distracted by social media. And nowadays, I spend too long pondering how it should work for my business. Has social media marketing really made life better for us, or do we pine for simpler times?

I’m not the only person who sits in front of their keyboard feeling the pressure to be witty, insightful, timely or insanely clever, am I?

I’m sure plenty of you spend ages mulling over the right image to upload, or spend lots of money getting other clever people to do it for you.

If you think it’s tough, imaging trying to market yourself as a supposed marketing expert – I live in fear of being like the plumber whose kitchen has a leaky tap.

Don’t you sometimes wistfully look back on the days when your greatest angst was over whether to be in the Waikato Times on a Wednesday or a Saturday?

It is a long time since deciding on the best media options has been a clear and obvious choice.

In June, the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand held its annual conference in Hamilton and one of the many stand-out speakers was a London ad man, Dave Trott, who reminded us of just that.

He took us on a quick journey through the ever-changing history of the tools we’ve been able to use to tell our stories. From cave painting and fine art, through photography and television, to the fast-changing digital landscape of today.

The earliest mediums have, somewhat obviously, declined in practical popularity but the world’s eclectic media environment is more about expansion rather than replacement. In our lifetimes, there will be plenty more to come too.

But Dave reminded us about the one constant in this crazy maelstrom – the ‘punter’ is still the most important component in our decision making and is at the heart of everything we do to market our businesses. Or should be.

I’m not anti-digital marketing, far from it. I don’t profess to be the expert, far from it. I can absolutely see the value all these new, or not so new options bring to our marketing toolkit.

We celebrate their measurability and the ability to target more accurately. We reassure ourselves of the benefits of the flexibility to change our ads or messages quickly, to be nimble and ‘agile’, testing out multiple ideas. We try new features and gizmos with voracious appetites because it only costs us a few bucks here and there to do so. We’re like kids in a candy store.

But if we’re not careful, we end up like those dreadful children in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Imagine the digital marketing equivalent of Augustus Gloop, over-indulging on hourly Facebook updates. A Twitter-mad Mike Teavee, imploding from constant retweets. And a selfie-obsessed Veruca Salt, who we unfollow because her posts are always all about her.

Yes, it can cost a lot less to place ads or boost posts on social media compared with print, radio or other ‘traditional’ media. But before you dive deeply into boosting your digital footprint, consider how much it costs you in terms of time.

Since social media joined the mix of media options, have marketing budgets got considerably smaller?

I somehow doubt that’s always the case.

Has the number of people required in a marketing team increased?

I’ve seen countless examples where it certainly has, as legions of social media administrators spread through comms and marketing departments like wildfire, fervently replying to comments, desperately seeking the perfect image, artistically crafting a photo caption of literary genius. Choosing the obligatory emoji… a mission in itself.

As I finish this column, I’m waiting for an electrician to arrive. I contacted him after I’d seen him recommended on Facebook. But I only took action because someone whose opinion I trust had mentioned him, and because his website reassured me he looked legit, and I noticed his smart looking vehicles around town that, like it or not, convinced me it might be a decent company to deal with.

Social media has, in many ways, just added another spike to the wheel of word-of-mouth options. Word-of-post, perhaps we should call it.

I completely get it. Great social media can really boost your business, enhance your reputation and make people fall in love with your brand. I’m all for that. But get it wrong and your Facebook faux pas may have been seen by more people that you care to think about before you even realise.

Talk without knowing who you’re talking to or communicate in a way that isn’t authentic to your brand, you’re wasting your time as well as your money.

In the immortal words of George Michael, if you’re going to do, do it right.

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About Author

Vicki Jones

Vicki Jones is director of Dugmore Jones, Hamilton-based marketing management consultancy. Email vicki@dugmorejones.co.nz