Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top Six Ways First-Time Social Media Engagement is Like Your First Time Having Sex

I can't recall the presentation that made the cheeky point 'your first social media engagement will be like your first time having sex,' and I'm more than happy to credit it for inspiration of this post if anyone cares to point it out. The 'awkward first time' thing is actually pretty apropos for social media engagement, and I was reminded of this fact recently with some clients at my old agency who were enamored with the act and not nearly enough with the approach. So without further ado, and tongue planted firmly in... cheek, I give you: the Top Six Ways First-time Social Media Engagement is Like Your First Time Having Sex.

Goes without saying some of this might not be work-safe if your company can't handle a little grown-up fun.

6. Those who talk the loudest are rarely the most experienced. Remember the braggart jock in high school who used to like to talk about his conquests in the locker room? And remember how your parents told you he was full of hot air? Guess what: there's a lot of that floating around in social media too. Those who can, do. Those who can't, have slickly-designed blogs and write about it a lot. Not that there aren't some perfectly legitimate people out there with well-designed blogs who have intelligent things to say about social media. Unfortunately, those people tend to be few and far between, and the number of locker-room bragging is going up. Beware someone who hasn't actually been doing this for several years, unless that person is young and has been doing this in their off-time before doing it professionally.

5. It's easy to get hung up on the toys. Unless you lead a very un-exciting life, in which case I apologize and recommend you spice things up a bit, you have probably experimented with toys at some point. But rarely are toys the sole focus of what you're doing, and very rarely are toys a major part of your first time. So while it may be exciting to think about sinking hundreds of thousands into a YouTube channel, remember that these toys are really just something to supplement the overall experience - not central focus of what you're doing. Sure, they can be used in some very interesting combinations and when used correctly can greatly enhance your social media experience. But keep them in your pocket in case the mood takes you there, don't whip them out over dinner and declare that this is where things are headed. Unless you're into that kind of thing, I guess.

4. There's a lot of porn out there. Porn exploits people. People choose to allow themselves to be exploited for money. Porn also creates a series of completely unreasonable expectations about sex, because porn is designed to do one thing and one thing only: scratch a biological itch and make money doing it. When's the last time you had a sexy plumber over while you were wearing nothing but French-lace panties and he lost his shirt and you ended up re-creating 3/4s of the Kama Sutra in your kitchen? Or when is the last time you had one of those 'Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me?' experiences?

Yeah, I thought so.

A good deal of the social media sales is like pornography. Slick gurus put out titillating books, post to well-designed blogs and talk about how if only you fork over $100,000 to them for consulting fees you're assured a front-page success story in the Wall Street Journal. It's all as airbrushed, posed and fake as porn, baby, but like a generation raised with the Internet and without the need to hide a crinkly stack of Playboys under their mattress (warning: link NWS), it has created extremely unreasonable expectations about the act itself. So let me be blunt here and repeat something my mother told me when I was about fourteen (ahem): it's designed to titillate and make money, nothing else. Real quality interaction comes from long-term work, trust and relationship-building. You can start rolling in the hay right away or wait until a few dates in, but anyone can tell you that if you're putting the effort into it then it will pay dividends. It's all about the quality of the relationship, not the flashy airbrushed fiction.

3. Size doesn't matter. 1,000,000 Twitter followers is better than 10,000, right? Wrong. It's perfectly natural for us to take peeks around in the locker room and do a little compare-and-contrast. We see what the big studs are doing with their massive groups of followers - Stephen Fry has fans hanging on his every word, The Real Shaq can activate a small army with a single Tweet, and Starbucks' massive group on Facebook is a 150-slide case study in and of itself. But like the old saying goes, it's not the size but how you use it. Starbucks and Shaq, ahem, are so successful because they're using it well, not because of the size and girth of their follower numbers. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that the only reason their numbers are so high is because they're using it well.

Avoid anyone who promises you 250,000 views, or 10,000 followers for a lump sum. It's a bullshit sales pitch designed to take advantage of people who only care about that number (a scummy old advertising trick, surprise surprise.) 1000 true fans following you, hanging on your every word, buying your products and supporting your company are way better than 1,000,000 indifferent people or robots. And if you talk to your 1,000 fans in a kind and loving way, then the size of your group won't matter nearly as much as all the other ways you can show them love.

I'm sure there's a slightly less male-centric comparison here too. Um, yeah, boobs.

2. There might be crying involved. Especially if your promotion metrics were invented by a bunch of marketing people who have only read about social media in PR Weak, and your raise this year depended on you taking your Facebook group from 1000 members to 1,000,000 members in six months. You really might want to consider what's reasonable to do in a reasonable amount of time. The above four points might be an excellent guide, as will other success stories based on relationship-building.

1. It's going to be awkward, fumbling and you're going to sit there thinking 'what the hell was that all about?' Because there's a lot of expectations out there, misplaced and unreasonable as most of it is. Four years ago my job consisted of convincing companies that social media is important. Well, mission accomplished. If you don't think social media is important then congratulations, you're a dinosaur and I cannot wait to have your office and salary someday soon. Nowadays, my job is to convince people to do social media right. Because doing it right is sometimes very un-sexy. It takes time and work, like a relationship. But like a relationship, it's far more fulfilling than a one-night stand, and way less awkward than your first fumbling gropes in the backseat of a Chevy.

Take your time. Know your audience. Build a relationship. Make some effort. Social media, the unsexy part, is going to be a slow burn. But like a relationship the payoffs are well worth it: trusting and loyal customers, an excellent reputation, evidence of your efforts to anyone with a search engine, positive word of mouth and correlating sales data to prove you're doing it right.

Coming soon: The Top 10 Ways Social Media Engagement Is Not Like Having Sex.


Jonny Bentwood said...

Wonderful post - great points. If I was to be crude and add another point, it may be:
Foreplay is forgotten.
How many social media campaigns start with engagement whilst missing out the key tenants of planning, listening and analysing.

Matt Churchill said...

Wondering if that means that a mail merge is the equivalent of a drunken one night stand you live to regret...

Jason said...

I think mail merge is more like playing with yourself in a public place. Pardon my crass comparison.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I can't help think that this would have been far more amusing if it was the other way around.

"Top Six Ways First-Time Sex is Like Your First Time Having a Social Media Engagement"

References to poking and fail whales - where could it go wrong?