Social Media – More like a steam train than a space shuttle.

A recent article from the Creative Freelancer Blog was being retweeted left right and centre, and it caught our eye. Titled “Is Social Media Making You Lazy?”, it got us thinking. Does it really? Perhaps sitting at a desk typing and sharing links is lazy. We’d never thought of it that way before – to us it had always just been another form of interaction. It made us feel bad. We went out for a walk on our lunch break to think about what we’d (not) done.

But what alternatives are there, in 2011? In most cases there are exhibitions to be strolled around and business cards to be collected; in a few there are even coffees to be socially sipped and hands to be shaken. But does this form of contact really make a difference when it comes to contacting prospective partners and clients? In some cases, this might be true. Of course at some point you have to make face time a priority, but at the beginning of a working relationship, why not use social media? It’s there to be utilised after all.

You can’t look people in the eye or judge them on the strength of their handshake over a friendly hashtag game, but do we still work in nicotine-stained offices and wear pinstriped bowler hats? There’s plenty of time to swap heavyweight embossed business cards once the ice has been broken, and in the world of Social Media, that rather aloof layer of frozen water is very thin indeed.

The greatest mistake a company can make when it comes to Social Media is to believe that simply having a Twitter account or a Facebook page is enough. It really isn’t as simple as that. Social networking is a demanding platform that requires a great deal of attention and understanding in order for it to work to best advantage.

To go back to our original analogy, you can’t build a great, shiny monolith of a Facebook page or Twitter account, throw comparably huge amounts of time and money at it, and then catapult it into space to await some spectacular results. The fuel will burn out, and eventually all the positive momentum you built up will be lost. To meet and maintain contacts who mean something to you and your company, your content needs to be fresh and engaging, and it’s this content that will keep people interested in your social media campaigns. It’s an endless loop of feeding and consuming, much like a steam train.

Social media is not a self-sufficient marketing tool. You cannot assume a twitter account will gain you instant notoriety. As with face-to-face networking, you have to put the work in. So, if you ask us, social media isn’t making us lazy. If you’re doing it properly, it provides an invaluable and constant stream of useful information, interesting contacts and outsider knowledge. Yes, there’s no substitute for human conversation, but how many customers of yours did you meet face to face for the first time?