Sorting the Social Media Wheat from the Chaff

Purple Cow Family Restaurant and CASINO!For those who are new to social media, it can be a confusing place. There are dozens of new platforms, services, websites, applications and widgets appearing every week. It is hard to know whether you should be Twittering with your Dopplr or giving your Facebook the Flickr. And really, what do you do – and how best should you respond – when someone throws a cow at you (especially if it happens to be purple)?

Many organisations, when faced with this challenge decide it is all too confusing and more than a little chaotic (and uncontrollable), and turn to the relative safety of traditional marketing strategies and channels. Some businesses, however, turn to social media consultants. And while this may be a great first step, I could find over 1300 in my personal LinkedIn network – so finding the RIGHT social media expert could also be a challenge.

Joe Cothrel suggests that you just need to use the six words that make social media consultants disappear:

"Show me five things you've done."

If your expert is still there, feel free to explain what you mean.   You can explain that you'd like to see examples of social media efforts they have completed for five different companies.   You can explain that the companies sponsoring these efforts don't need to be in your industry, but they should be comparable to yours or better in terms of size and brand recognition.  You can explain that these efforts should not be in development, or coming soon: they should be ongoing or completed.   You can explain that these efforts must be successful by at least one measure — they engaged thousands or hundreds of thousands or (preferably) millions of users.

For the busy executive, Gino Cosme suggests reading this BusinessWeek special report on social media. This report talks about Twitter, keeping momentum with your social media efforts, leveraging existing social networks and features Jeff Jarvis, Jakob Nielsen and BusinessWeek Executive Editor, John A Byrne.

Of course, you could always start by dipping your own, personal, toe in the water and start your own blog or open a personal Twitter account. But then translating personal experience into business outcomes is easier said than done.

Interestingly, the upcoming Sydney Social Media Club event will be asking whether you need an agency to run effective social media campaigns. Come armed with your six words and you’ll be completely safe.

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