Social Media – What They Really Want (2)

Since my last post I’ve been inundated with quite literally no requests for clarification of the term ‘Free Stuff’. This complete lack of interest seems to centre round the misapprehension that, when I say ‘Free Stuff’, I’m talking about tangible goods, for free.

No. It’s a metaphor. What I’m talking about is something that a consumer (or stakeholder) wouldn’t otherwise have, that adds value to their existence, and comes without charge. So – it could be tangible goods for free, or it might be an exclusive discount, or a print-and-play voucher, or a competition, or simply some useful information.

As we’re discussing this in the context of social media, I know there are those who will maintain that this is exactly what social media does – through the medium of the conversation, the Q&A, ‘Free Stuff’ (generally information) is provided.

Well, yes and no. Mostly no. Social media are populated by several groups. Those who seek to belong, those who seek validation (through followers and fans), those who cannot bear to be alone, those who believe others are interested, those who are there by mistake and the ghosts who came once, never go again, yet leave traces of themselves in terms of usernames and unfinished profiles. All untraceable, unevaluable and – mostly – unquantifiable.

And as they are so diverse and give little clue to what they really, really want (and I’m certain that many of them do, simply, want to zigazig ah) a brand or organisation wishing to give them ‘Free Stuff’ actually can’t. Because one size does not fit all and they don’t ask directly (well, not often).

What this means is that brand or corporate pursuing its benighted and expensive social media ‘strategy’ is obliged to provide one of three things. Reaction to negative comment, general product or corporate info or Irritating Voiceover. Or any combination of the three.

Well, the pedants will say, this IS, by the definition outlined here, Free Stuff.

And indeed it is. But it’s low-level, generic Free Stuff that should be on your website anyway. If your consumers are having to get, or ask for, general info via Twitter or Facebook, then there is something seriously wrong in another area of your communications mix. Or, maybe, those consumers (stakeholders) are just sad and needy and desperately crave human contact. Any human contact.

Going back to Free Stuff – the Free Stuff that people want is stuff that feels special and unique – unique to them and their group. It’s stuff that cannot be delivered via mass-market social media, open to everyone. It’s stuff that can only be delivered on a ‘personal’ basis – in today’s internet age, signing up to a brand’s website is personal enough.

Two things, then.

  • Social media cannot fulfil the consumer’s defining need for Free Stuff
  • Your website (and associated digital marketing) can

Why, therefore, are you wasting time, money and effort on social media?

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