A marketing deal with the CEO

shakinghandsYesterday I got a phone call from someone working in the marketing and social media department at a rather large company in Ottawa that operates internationally. This person, lets call her Christine, called me to pick my brain, as I’m working as a consulting partner for the company, about a task she was just assigned. Christine proceeded to tell me that her boss had walked into her cubicle telling her that by the end of the week he wanted to see 1000 more likes on Facebook. So Christine had called me asking me how to do that. Of course if you’ve been following along on here or know me at all you know what my response would be, why the hell does he need that number? To which she replied and this is what I heard: “blah blah blah wah wah wah….statistics…blah blah blah board members…important growth…wah wah wah.”

It took me about 10 minutes to tell her that I would be coming to visit very shortly and we could talk about the strategies very shortly in person. I also proceeded to book an appointment with the CEO and the Executive Board at the regular meeting.

A few days later and the evening had arrived, there we were all sitting around the mahogany table, even Christine was there much to her embarrassment and dismay (she didn’t think she belonged there.) The first point on the agenda was the companies outreach and their social media strategy. The first questions came from me: “what do “likes” on facebook me to you?” “what is your message on social media?” “what does social media mean to you?” Then I shut up and sat there in complete and utter silence. I laughed inside as the CEO and all the board members looked around the table at each other. They kind of looked like I was speaking another language, they didn’t know what I was asking. After probably 2 minutes of utter silence each and every one of them slowly turned their heads towards Christine and the CEO said “well Christine can answer that best.” Of course I knew she could answer it best but I wanted to know since it was so “important” to them what their answers were so of course I challenged him. “I know Christine can answer it but I’m just curious about what you folks think about social media and it’s importance in your company. Why are you using it?” was my response. Then corporate dribble spewed out at me. All I wanted him to say was that it was a chance to connect with their audience, to build relationships, to grow as a company, to understand their customers better, anything along those lines.

Now you know how the conversation went (how the conversation with every company I work with goes) and it was time to get to the point, the ominous question. Why did they need 1000 new likes on their facebook in such a short period of time? We talked about it and we had a really great discussion which I was very happy about.

The CEO was still very stuck on the idea that they needed this many likes really quickly so I offered him a challenge. He was keen to hear the challenge.

CHALLENGE GIVEN: Christine and I will get 1000 new likes if you do 1 thing for us. I want you sir to go out this week and meet and make friends with 1000 new people. 

Of course his response to me was “well that is crazy I couldn’t possibly do that.” My reply, “that’s right.” Then we got into the discussion about quality over quantity. Read more about my thoughts on that in an earlier post: It’s a numbers game

It can be rather easy to go out and get a bunch of “likes” for your company page but we, as human beings and especially as marketing and communications folks, have a big responsibility to educate people about what social media is. Not even really sure anyone has this answer but the one thing I know about social media and am very adamant about  is that it is a not a number producing factory. It is a place to be social, to share (NOT sell ALL the time), and to be a human being. 

Christine’s problem was resolved and the company is now on track to becoming more human like. They are sharing all kinds of interesting tips and tricks and sharing other people’s tips and tricks, heck their even admitting their errors on their own page and assuring customers that they are working hard to minimize those errors. Guess what is happening? Their numbers are growing, albeit slowly, but it is steady slow growth. Each and every one of their new “likes” or fans is becoming a part of the company.

Christine, the CEO, and even the Board Members are so much happier with their Social Media existence and they can’t believe how this new community is so supportive of the work they are doing.