Yesterday was a big day in social media. Mayan predictions and opportune weddings created the majority of buzz, but a single account caused a stir of its own. The Pope, the actual leader of the Catholic Church, started using his own Twitter account to delight of devout Catholics and lazy journalists everywhere. How this new journey into social media engagement will affect the Catholic Church is for others to discuss. But his first few tweets did make an interesting point for marketers.
The first group of tweets from the pontiff were notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, not a hashtag or link in sight; which is understandable considering he is 85 years old. And the aids designated to actually write the tweets are probably no more than twenty years younger. Can’t imagine social media savvy is high on the list of Catholic virtues. The main point of interest was the content of the tweets.
They all just felt so… church-ey. It’s natural to expect a sermon from God’s representative on earth. But it made me think. This enterprise, no matter what spin is placed upon it, is a marketing effort by the church. It is designed to reach the people, and generate more ‘brand’ awareness. Papal social media engagement is designed to make the church more accessible to social media users. Otherwise known as young people.
Social Media is not a Billboard
So after all that effort, why use this new channel to broadcast the same old messages? Social media is a brand new form of communication; it needs to be used in that way. But, so far, the church hasn’t really done that. They’ve just taken snippets of sermon and posted them on social media. It’s a mistake that isn’t confined to octogenarians on their first foray into social media engagement.
Too many businesses do the same thing. They create social media accounts and they ask people to connect with them in this new arena. Then they just fill it with the same old sales patter and advertising slogans they used to flog through mailshots and radio ads. They failed to remember a common phrase that’s even older than the pontiff. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
What these businesses fail to realize, is that social media is not a billboard. It’s not an advertising opportunity. It offers that, but when it’s used effectively it’s so much more than that. Your social media strategy shouldn’t just be to get a message out there. It should be to engage with your market. You need to spread brand awareness and drive sales by being a part of a community.
The Social Media Party
That means changing the message, or saving it for the right part of the conversation. Social media is an invitation to a party with all of your prospective clients. Who would you rather talk to at a party? The friendly, insightful mingler? Or the guy standing in the middle of the room shouting into a megaphone?
Social media engagement is about drawing prospects to you. That means asking genuine questions, and waiting for genuine answers. It means offering more than platitudes or veiled sales pitches. It means creating value. Social media users are picky. They can afford to be, because they are a part of everyone’s target market. You need to respect that fickle nature and offer them something different, something new.
The Pope’s arrival on Twitter may well be successful. Adapting to a whole new form of communication takes time. After all he’s coming from the brand that turned water into wine. Businesses don’t need miracles to turn a social media pigs into princesses. It just takes more than lipstick.
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