Starting a Facebook page does not mean a business has ticked the social media box, says an American communications expert who will speak in this country next week.
Jon Leland says marketing via social media is a revolution no business can afford to ignore - but some trying to engage with it are wasting their time.
Last month, a survey showed that of 725 New Zealand small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 50 per cent are now using social media, compared with 29 per cent a year ago.
But Leland, author of the ebook What Every Business Needs to Know About internet Marketing and the founder of the online New Marketing University, says many of those misunderstand the phenomena, creating Facebook pages and content for the sake of it.
"A fluffy approach indicates a company doesn't get it. They need to understand who they are and why they're doing it before getting involved."
He says social media is an avenue for people to make recommendations about businesses, but is also a place to complain and those using it have to find ways to engage people, rather than simply putting out information.
"If you're not straight, they'll bite back. Those messages will be out there and increasingly accessible, so businesses have to walk their talk."
Consumers depend on social reviews and have more power than ever before, he says.
"The bottom line is businesses have to listen to customers - however they want to talk to you."
A partner of digital and social communication agency Contagion, Tom Bates, who will also speak at the conference, agrees. "A number of companies haven't achieved their goals, but they weren't really sure what they wanted to achieve in the first place."
He describes a disconnect between business and its capitalist perspective and social media. "The companies that have got it right have taken a more human approach to engaging people, whether it's thought-provoking, entertaining or useful," he says. "Those that failed have treated Facebook fans or followers as databases and customers."
Personality is key, like one project he did for Gisborne's Rhythm and Vines festival. The festival target audience is aged 18 to 24 and accessing mainstream media is too expensive for organisers. An initial Facebook page didn't get much response so an "inspire, entertain and educate" strategy was created.
Festival director Hamish Pinkham produced a blog discussing the trials and tribulations in the lead-up to the event, accompanied by video content and teasers. A competition was held to give a young person the chance to work as an apprentice. The winner got to host artists backstage and write press releases.
"We had all these people sharing the Rhythm and Vines message with their friends which gained a massive viral push we would never have received using paid media." The event sold out for the first time in eight years.
MediaSense: Make social media marketing work for you!
August 25, NZ Telecom Corporate HQ, Auckland, 7.30am to 7.30pm