You can “Free Willy.”
Sometimes you can wrangle a free lunch.
Wired‘s controversial editor Chris Anderson even started giving away free copies of his book “Free” (after he sold a lot of them first).
But here is one thing that is not for free. Social media.
Oh, you can start a Twitter or Facebook account for free. You can post videos to YouTube at no cost. You can sign up for FriendFeed and MySpace for nothing. You can create a blog on WordPress or Blogger for zero cost.
But social media isn’t free.
It takes an investment of time and resources. It takes creativity and energy. Because without an investment of these things: social media isn’t going to do much for you.
Social media isn’t a plug-in or a box to check. It takes effort.
Take a Facebook page for your company or organization. Starting the page takes minutes because at the end of the day Facebook is a platform. But like any platform – you need to populate it with content. Now you can use your Facebook page to re-post press releases and news tidbits, but you aren’t going to attract much of a following.
Followers and fans are interested in the nitty-gritty. The inside scoop. Insights that they can’t get elsewhere. They want compelling content – videos, photographs, articles, essays, etc. They want solutions and answers to problems. They want a strong point of view. They also want to be entertained.
If you use your Facebook page to provide this type of content and then interact and engage with your followers – asking for feedback, responding to praise and criticism, soliciting ideas, and providing sneak peeks or giveaways – then you have created a thriving community. Content that will help drive sales and build awareness and reputation.
Your blank canvass now has paint on it.
But that kind of effort isn’t free. So stop thinking about social media as a box to check off – and start to think about it as a cornerstone of a communications plan.