If this doesn’t get me banned from Face book then I don’t know what will.

Last week I had two good days at a client’s conference in town.  They did an exceptionally good job of selecting the presentations; the venue and the catering.   The only low point was  the obligatory 45 minutes presentation on Social Media.

Please if have to sit through any more Power Point slides that extol me to “be genuine”, “be honest” and “be there” then I’ll no doubt reach down, pull off a sneaker and hurl it towards the stage.  I’m truly over it.  I must have heard the same or similar message, said in the same earnest way more than a dozen times in a dozen venues by a dozen different speakers.  The subject matter just hasn’t moved on.

With my smattering of grey hairs I remember being involved in the launch of professional email marketing solutions in New Zealand back in 1999.  There was much of a fanfare then, lots of people spoke about best practices and principles and then we were told to leave the room and do stuff.

The result? 

Email marketing campaigns spouted left right and centre.  What had been mailed was now emailed and as a result marketers bathed in an absolute glut of measurement data that their printed experience had previously lay hidden.  After 18 months there were case studies a plenty from a wide range of industries all doing great things to improve their marketing and as a result  their businesses all because of email marketing.    Now we were well and truly out of the land of principles and well into the detail stuff of tactical delivery.

I think I heard my first evangelical social media story two years back.  Then, like the start of email, we were served a platter of tasty principles and theories and told to get stuck in.  And that’s where the story changes.   What came next was very, very different.   Still we are hearing of the same principles to be applied and the result?  Just a minor smattering of local case stories of business success in social medial land.

So what’s wrong?  Well basically when it comes to the merit of using social media as a reliable and predictable way to improve your own marketing and therefore your bottom line for a lot of companies the message is a sham.  For some it will work, but for the vast majority it won’t.

Think of it this way.  Say you removed the reception in your building and in its place you put a nice trendy cafe, complete with barrista, comfy chairs and the latest newspaper. Now don’t get too excited this isn’t for you – it’s for your customers.   Here they can come, meet, mingle and chat away with each other.    So how many of your customers would drop by?

Now if you were say the NZSO with their passionate and discerning fans the space could be quite cluttered.   Likewise if you were Les Mills with their group fitness classes then there could be a bunch of fit and friendly  people mixing and mingling in a place like this.  (In fact in every Les Mills gym there is a space just like this already.)

But say you were an accountant or a hotel or say a manufacturer of office furniture then things would be different.  Enticing people inside would be a challenge.  If you were really keen you could  bribe them with free stuff just to enter.  Which is fine until you realise that to keep them there the bribes need to keep on coming.

Funnily enough both the NZSO and Les Mils have vibrant social media experiences.  And bribing (become a fan to go in the draw stuff) is exactly what businesses do when they try to make social media work when naturally it shouldn’t.

Look I know the cafe thing is a weak analogy – but it’s close.  And just because it’s easy for some to make a success of social media doesn’t make it a logical strategy for everyone when time spent here would be a waste.   But if you can imagine your own cafe full of customers chatting away to one another then I strongly suggest you start to make it happen.  Otherwise give social media a pass and try considering another strategy.  Maybe something that has broad application across a wide industry group and with a strong chance of success – like email marketing perhaps:)