“Bolt-On” Social Media

I was having coffee the other day with my friends, Heather Flournoy and Chris Roberts. To be more accurate I was actually drinking bottled water which, although she is far too nice to say anything, I suspect was noticed by Heather. Heather is the founder and driving force behind KATONAH GREEN, a very well-known sustainable living community organization and  blog.  Anyway – I digress.

Somewhere in the conversation we got to talking about how some mature businesses have, in the last year or so, tiptoed into the Social Media waters.

The thing is that more than a few of these organizations have added FB biz pages and Twitter accounts primarily because everyone says it’s the new,  hot thing to do.  They view these applications as something outside the main focus of their traditional, tried and true, methods of marketing and selling.

<oblique anecdotal analogy>For of those of you who were around in the late 60s and early 70s you’ll remember when the first Japanese cars were imported into the US.  Initially there was Datsun (later renamed  Nissan), Toyota and a little later Subaru came putting along. These were small cars with small engines, had 3 or 4 speed manual transmissions, 13″ wheels and virtually no options.   Americans started to gobble them up because of the gas mileage.  The thing was though, that over the prior decade Americans had started to get used to something – Air Conditioning in their cars.

Now the Japanese cars did not offer A/C as an option. So a number of companies built “bolt-on” A/C systems that could be installed by the dealer. They hung under the dashboard.  There was no real spot for it in the cabin of the car.  The motor wasn’t really designed to handle the load, and when you used the A/C your car really crawled along and your gas mileage dropped like a stone.

It was only when the manufacturers redesigned the cars to inherently include an optional A/C system that would be installed at the factory that it really became a viable feature of these cars. </oblique anecdotal analogy>

Same thing applies with Social Media.  If you want Social Media to help make your business better, you have to integrate into the heart and soul of your marketing and sales plan.  This might mean scrapping or tweaking some of your traditional ideas.

Social Media is most effective when it is a part of your engine – not a “bolt-on”

Posted on August 12, 2010, in Marketing, Sales, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Needless to say, I agree! The unspoken piece of this is that the mature organization has to not only accept the practice of social media as a new piece of equation, but they have to accept the actual person who will be doing the social media as a member of the team (and the new person has to be able to speak the language of the established team.) Assuming (as I think is safe) that most organizations will be bringing in someone new, even if only to consult on best practices, there has to be a good match of personalities, and a willingness to include the new person in the meetings and culture of the place.

    It’s too hard to do any other way, not to mention less successful.

  2. It goes without saying that someone whose work revolves around managing online media would agree with you, but I’m glad you wrote this nonetheless!

    With social media being untried by many organizations, the dip-your-toe-in approach naturally marks the first steps. Unfortunately, this can’t yield the desired results as the online communities see right through a shallow web presence with little or reluctant participation from the creator. It requires a long haul commitment and strategy for each platform used, including the integration you mention with more traditional methods.

    The most disappointing factor for me is organizations that only see an either/or decision in front of them: new media vs traditional marketing channels. In reality, those they wish to reach are involved with media across both categories, so ignoring one or another increasingly means doing only half a job. As the sector matures, however, I can see this shortcoming fading naturally as more integrated campaigns reap the rewards of their approach.

  3. Heather Flournoy

    Nice article, Rick. And thanks for mentioning my blog! (of course I noticed the water bottle, but think small steps are the building blocks for solid change. Your step might have been noticing that I noticed it!)

    I like the ‘not a bolt-on’ analogy. You’ve got it right. Social media, user-generated content, and the widespread adoption of new communication platforms have changed the avenues for reaching people. If the avenues have changed, savvy business people will adapt. The part that excites me is that during this transition period, the playing field has been brought closer to level for all players. It is free to participate, and opens up incredible opportunities for creative experimentation.

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