Don’t create a mobile app until you’ve mastered social media.

being antisocial on social media and mobileI work with companies from a variety of different industries, and I also keep an eye on what other companies are up to. In other words, as well as being a writer for the web, I’m also a student of the web.

And here is what I see…

Most companies finally “get it” when it comes to what they should be doing on the web. They pretty much understand what their websites can do for them, and why the web is different from offline media. That isn’t to say they couldn’t improve their websites. 100% of businesses online could improve their websites.

But when you take a look at their social media channels, it’s a whole different story.

Most companies don’t get social media at all.

(Stick with me, we’ll get to the topic of creating mobile apps in a while…)

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If a business isn’t social, it has no business on social media.

Social group of friendsLet’s say you’re not a very social person. Antisocial even.

When you go to a local bar, you don’t talk to anyone. And people rarely talk to you because, well, you give off a vibe that you’re not interested in listening to them.

It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Doesn’t even mean you don’t like people. It just means you’re not social. So people leave you alone.

Now let’s say you do have one friend, and that friend suggests you try a different bar. It seems this second bar is a really, really social place. Your friend thinks it might change things for you.

So you go to the second bar, and you don’t talk to anyone. They get that same vibe of yours and leave you alone.

The point being, in spite of his or her good intentions, your friend should have known that a change in bars wouldn’t make any difference.

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The broadcast medium formerly known as social media.

Being social at a partyBefore it became commercial, the web was social.

By the late 1990s it was definitely more commercial than social.

Then, with the fast growth of dedicated social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, it became seriously social again.

The arrival of the smartphone in 2007 made the web even more social. Smartphones are, by definition, social devices. And many of the most popular apps for these devices are hard-core social.

And then…

And then social media became a commercial broadcast channel.

OK, that’s the short version.

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When social media over-promises.

Poor quality web content and social media.This morning I saw a post on Google+ from a web marketing company I follow.

The post had a headline and about five lines of text. It promised me information that could dramatically improve my web marketing efforts. It was well written and compelling.

So I clicked the link and was taken to the article on the website.

The article was a crashing disappointment. Just basic information that pretty much any online copywriter already knows.

It’s not that the article was bad. It might be useful for someone who had just begun studying the craft of online writing. But that’s not what was sold in the Google+ post.

This is happening more and more. Social media updates over-promise, and the website content they link to under-delivers.

I have stopped following a number of companies for this reason. It’s really annoying to be tricked into clicking through to an article or post that proves to offer far less than I was led to expect.

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Social media isn’t just a hook for your website.

Social media hookHere we are, several years into the rise of social media, and companies still have no clue about what the social web is about.

When I scan through a company’s Facebook page, for example, what I see for the most part are links to its website.

Someone at the company wants to drive traffic to a particular page. So they send out a tweet, or create a Facebook update, or a Google+ post. The social media content is often automatically created, drawing the title and a photo from the site’s web page.

In other words, the social media update is simply a link back to the site, with no intrinsic value of its own.

That’s not social media content. That’s just a hook.

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Social media marketing and the mad electrician.

social media marketerSocial media is not something you just add on to your existing marketing plan.

It won’t work if you say, “Hey, last quarter we tried coupons, this month let’s try social media.” It’s not an advertising medium.

If you want social media to really work, you have to pull apart your whole marketing plan, and your company culture, and rebuild everything with “social” at its heart.

I have worked with a couple of different companies over the last little while, both of them in the B2C space, both of them in their first year of business. But they have had very different levels of success with social media.

The first company built its company and its marketing plan along traditional lines. Old school marketing. And then they decided to give social media a try. They just bolted it on.

It didn’t work.

The second company was more of a “native” web business. Its founders were younger and had grown up with the web. This business had “social” at its core. Everything – from sales, to customer service, and to marketing – revolved around social media. In fact, even the way people communicated within the company took place on a social platform.

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