Forget the Experts, Let the Musical Group TLC Teach You About Social Media

You have likely attended, read, researched, or paid for information about Social Media and how it can be leveraged in your business (especially true if you are a marketer).  Like you, I have invested – and still invest – a healthy about time learning about the emerging concepts in Social Media. With so much to discuss, I find that the dialog is severely fragmented.  Where can we turn for a clear, concise message on Social Media?  Music.  Removing the layers of complexity and conjecture I think we can simply sum up Social Media in the song ‘Waterfalls’ by the musical group TLC.

I believe a lot of the complexity and noise is due to our liberal attachment of the word ’strategy’ to Social Media.  Sure Social Media is new and exciting but we’re inadvertently giving this tactic a pretty big corporate ego; even its once popular digital counterparts (e.g. email, SEO, etc.) are jealous of all the new-baby attention that Social Media is receiving.

So let’s forget the ‘expert’ advice and see what TLC knows about Social Media.


Breaking Down the Song
Waterfalls (on lala)

by Marqueze Etheridge, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Organized Noize

Source Wikipedia

Don’t go chasing waterfalls,
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to,
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you’re moving too fast.

Social Media Basics #1 – Be Realistic, Be Honest
‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to’

I was attending an excellent webinar last week on new media that had a lot of engaging content and shared experiences.  I was thoroughly enjoying the presentation, until the presenter leaned heavily on Blendtec as the goal for [all] marketers to reach for and achieve.  Uhhhhh, no…you just lost me.

Yes, Blendtec is one of many great individual examples of viral marketing performance.  However, using the marketing wisdom of TLC, the Blendtec video campaign is a ‘waterfall’…one that is highly conditional and not easily replicated.  The ’success’ of the campaign is not sustainable as it is dependent on an ever-widening top of Blendtec’s demand funnel.

Unfortunately, these are the examples that are generally held up for marketers as what they should be achieving. Blinded by the huge dollar signs we neglect to see the ’success’ of Blendtec as a general exception to the rule.

We need to be realistic in our approach to Social Media.

Rather than chase that awesome viral video or amazing Tweetup, we need to think about what social interactions and information:

  • Do our targeted audiences value?
  • Can be energetically supported within the organization?
  • Will authentically represent the organization’s culture?
  • Can return consistent value to your targeted audiences?

Social Media Basics #2 – Letting Go Of The Message
‘I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all’

What a perfect line, TLC really knows Social Media…they were well ahead of their time.  So after we are all hopped up from the sugary delights of Social Media case studies, we excited begin discussing these new tools in our organizations.  Most of us marketers are pumped!  Our colleagues, however, are usually a little skeptical and others are completely and belligerently against Social Media.

And so the corporate negotiations and rationalizations begin; structured thought and processes are established to ‘guide’ Social Media.  As a result, many organizations use Social Media as another tool to push and control a message.  Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Highly moderated and restricted communities (fear of negativity).
  • Filtered comments (control).
  • Days spent formulating responses to comments/events in the social cloud (over-analysis).

We have to be okay letting a dialog develop – positive or negative, informed or misinformed – and rather focusing our efforts on vigilantly monitoring and thoughtfully responding.

Social Media Basics #3 –  What Value Will You Return
‘But I think you’re moving too fast’

Often the investment in Social Media thought processes are reversed; we spend countless time developing policies and procedures but don’t invest enough in how we are going to reach and return value to our audiences.  Instead we begin immediately focusing on the ‘tools’, not our messages, our audiences, and our responsibilities as marketers.

A similar parallel can be drawn to the mad Internet rush of the late 90’s when businesses realized they needed a presence on the ‘World Wide Web’.  Consultants were hired, teams were created, and websites were launched!  Many organizations, reacting to their delayed entry into the Internet, rushed to check a box (oftentimes a very expensive box).  The result of that rush were a lot of brochure-ware websites that did little for the user or the organization.

Social Media is particularly dangerous as there are often little to no hard costs to using its tools.  With low financial barriers to entry, we blindly load up on tools and ignore our audience.

Return to the questions I posed in the first section; let the answers to those questions determine what tools and mediums to use in your Social Media efforts.

A final note, and equally important, these concepts also apply to our own, personal Social Media efforts.  Our personal brands can be positively shaped by adopting TLC’s advice on Social Media.  Be thoughtfully engaged, helpful, and collaborative.

While I know that TLC intended their song to have a broader message promoting social awareness, the next time you sing along to ‘Waterfalls’ I hope you also think of the direction of your Social Media efforts.


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