So Airbnb has been on stage at the Cannes Festival of Advertising. But doesn't carry "advertising". Or at least, not the traditional type - although it's actually entirely an advertising platform, whatever its brand positioning as part of the "sharing economy" (private multinational corporation? ≠ sharing!) Anyway, they made a trip to Cannes because, firstly, Airbnb is hugely smart at PR, and secondly because they've launched a new commercial format www.nightat.withairbnb.com giving marketers a platform to create accommodation-based brand experiences. Check out the case studies; masses of potential and a genuine "sharing" - Airbnb and brands can share the PR benefits. Neat.
The clue's in the name; "social" media. So why has it become mandatory as a business communication tool?
More specifically, as a B2B marketing tool - businesses are told they MUST have a healthy, rounded social media presence including blog, Twitter feed, Instagram, Facebook page and LinkedIn presence as part of their marketing activity. But how does this fit into building your business?
Firstly, it's all about the customer, client, buyer... whatever you call them in your own business. Surely B2B marketers should practise what they preach and understand their customers' needs and behaviours properly, and then act on that understanding. Which means understanding the communication channels they use and value, and what they want to hear (when, how often, and from whom). In the context of social media, who are these business decisionmakers who have sufficient spare time to read suppliers' blogs or Twitter feeds? Most successful businesses are run by busy people who are very focused on what's important or useful to them. And who struggle to keep up with even the information they designate Important or Useful.
So, be Important and Useful to them, would be the obvious response. Fine, as long as you have the resource to do that; producing high-quality, insightful and well-targeted social content requires good people and a lot of time. But so many businesses delegate their social media output, particularly Twitter, to the most junior members of staff. Because it's a low priority internally, or it's not clear what exactly it delivers but "we have to be on it". Something wrong there. Does your business have something to say which could be genuinely important or useful to your target customers? And only if yes, is social media the best way to say it?
Secondly, there are plenty of tools available to understand who is looking at or engaging with your social media activity; they should be central to your approach as they allow a business to understand whether a specific social channel is delivering against strategy, and whether it's cost-efficient. Social media may appear "free" or low-cost, but it's not so low cost if you add up the manhours it takes, or consider the opportunity cost of that effort. Generally, quantitative rigour is sadly lacking.
Of course a company's social media activity isn't just about communicating with potential customers; internal marketing or attracting talent are both major drivers of much social media, and can be very effective for both. Or showcasing a smart thinker can build the Personal Brand, and value to your business, of that commentator. We can think of several marketing commentators who are always clever and insightful and worth reading. But they're pretty rare. Clarity and honesty about the objectives and strategy are needed upfront in order to get the best out of social channels, rather than just broadcasting vanilla content which is targeted to no-one or everyone.
Finally, why use a blog to question the value of blogs? Well it's either "Physician heal thyself", or a very obvious strategy...