Just like Teddy Roosevelt referred to the West African proverb, “speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far,” the truth of the matter is that the most powerful and successful communicators know how to do this flawlessly. Most often used in political messaging, the “Big Stick” philosophy means that in order to command authority, you must use a gentle and charismatic voice all the while yielding the power behind it to back it up. The same holds true in social media.
As social media networking is becoming a powerhouse in commercial advertising, many times the brand’s “message” gets lost in translation. Major corporations are uncharacteristically behind the “mom & pop” brands when it comes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and BRM (Brand Reputation Management) because social media essentially works like a Hive Mind. Social network communities Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit and Instagram, among others, are collective forces with which to be reckoned. And this is where brand messaging can quickly get lost in translation. Where mom & pop businesses generally tend to provide one-on-one customer experiences, it is more of a challenge for those National or Global brands trying to bring similar games to the social media playing field.
Online digital marketing firms promise VOC (Voice of the Customer) monitoring services that can sometimes level the social networking field in terms of reaching a company’s consumer base. Therein lies the problem. Where smaller, digital businesses have successfully taken the lead in word-of-mouth advertising online, larger conglomerates are still struggling to keep up with this now mainstream form of multimedia advertising. Perhaps that is the actual challenge giant manufacturers, retailers and others are beginning to realize: smaller digital businesses have cornered the social media market by being “in the know” before it became popular. Mom & Pop shops online have learned if you want a solid return on investment (ROI), gentle persuasion and charisma in two-way dialogs is how champions are made – not born. You have to earn respect to get mutual respect on the social media landscape.
Roosevelt’s infamous words wield strong caution in today’s social media marketing playbook: Either learn to play right or get lost on the sidelines. On one social media video, the message was that your strongest ROI is having the ability to still exist in five years. As a large national or global brand, it would behoove you to observe power in action by the small mom & pop stores online that get it done day in and day out.
If you want to know what drives that dual personal and professional edge, and how smaller brands grow so rapidly online, take note on their simplistic communication styles. Some may claim that social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, but that is not true at all. In fact, the only fundamental shift is the fact that corporate organizations are still “feeling” their way around social media networks. The bottom line is that customers, just like the businesses they patron, want a personal touch, a one-on-one dialog — kind of like the milk delivery man back in the day. “Service with a smile” is sometimes a challenge for hardliners, who’s preliminary message is to sell, sell, sell. The stage is no longer owned by commercial brands – it is owned by the people who patron the Internet. Last I heard, that number of Internet users outweighs individual brands themselves.
The shot heard around the world is not just applicable to the Revolutionary War, it is certainly applicable today in social media as more and more consumers have taken center stage — one tweet, one post, one video goes viral and the global audience knows it. Be kind to your customers, know how to speak softly and carry a big stick by communicating in ways that make sense to your fellow social networkers. Remember the annoying kid who always yelled, “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” – that kid? Yeah, that’s you if you are not having a two-way dialog on social media. Just sayin’ …
Social Media: speak softly and carry a big stick
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OPED by CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd – Social Media, Philosophy, and More