In Part 2 of my interview (PART 1 HERE) with Jason Falls  co-author of No BullShit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing, we passionately discuss what’s good about social media today, what’s BS, and what needs to change for doing truly “social” business.

The following is an excerpt from my 27-minute video interview with Jason Falls. I also encourage you to check out Part 1 of my interview with Jason Falls on “No Bullshit Social Video.

So Jason, how did you wind up in this crazy business of social media?

I am a PR guy by trade, I spent about twelve years in College Athletics Public Relations, apart of that I was a Sports Journalist and I – but I’ve always had a personal affinity toward Social networking, blogging, online communications.  I started my first blog in sort of an online version in a newspaper column in the late 1990s, around ’97-’98. I would ask people to send me questions and comments, and then I would respond to them in the online version. It was a blog before they where really called blog. I wrote that for quite some time as more of a personal and humor blog than anything else.

Then in 2005, my son was born. A year later I decided to get out of college athletics, because I was travelling too much and not spending enough time home. I started working for an advertising agency, and I kind of looked around and said to my CEO, “hey why aren’t we talking to our clients, using blogging and social media and what not?” My CEO said to me, “hey man if you can sell it, you can do it – go for it.” The snowballs started rolling from there and it just kind of evolved. I’ve been out on my own doing business analysis, and became a consultant and as a CEO with a company who does Education Information products for a couple of years now. Life is good.

So what inspired you to write your book titled, “No Bullshit Social Media?”

My co-author, Erik Deckers – we were talking about working on a book project and giving it a special angle. I do a lot of professional speaking events every year; and typically when I come off the stage, people would say to me, “hey I like your style, you’ve got that sort of no nonsense, no BS-kind of style, you tell it like it is and I really appreciate that.” So that was sort of the nugget of – the book needed to be sort of no-BS, no nonsense kind of message.

And as we were talking about the title, “No Bullshit Social Media” just came out. We proposed it to the publisher and they thought it was fine; and they checked with some of their retail partners, and they say it was fine. Surprisingly enough, it’s been generally accepted by most people and we haven’t got too much flack or push-back since.

What do you say is “bullshit” about social media?

It’s the promise that comes from it. For the last ten years or so – social media practitioners, social media evangelist, so on and so forth – have sort of left it at social media marketing being about joining the conversation and listening to your customers and engaging in providing value – and so on and so forth.

Now, my co-author Erik and I don’t disagree with those philosophical tenants. The bullshit that we call is when they stop there. They never take it to the next part of the equation, which is how you measure it? How does it drive business? How can you present calls to action? And actually, you know, provide that engagement and that value and also get something in return for what you’re doing.

So we wanted to call bullshit on the people responsible for this, who we refer to as, in a playful way, obviously, the “social media tree huggers and hippies.” You know, the ones who are out there saying social media is all about joining the conversation. But then when you ask them how it was measured and where’s the demonstrated financial benefit – you know, in terms of getting it back from doing this – they really don’t know what to say. Or they might fall back on saying something like, “oh, social media is not about sales, it’s about relationships.” Well, it’s irresponsible not to think about sales. Anyone who says you shouldn’t needs to have “bullshit” called on them, simply because you absolutely can use these social channels to drive revenue, to facilitate customer service, and many other things.

Can brands be successful today with social media if they’re using it more for traditional, broadcast-style activity? For example, content and advertising, non-engagement stuff?

I should mention that now we’re starting to look at social media from very, very “television” point of view. The social media purist would say you should never broadcast, and you should just do communications using social channels. But we do show in our book that there are many, many examples out there of companies that are doing just that – broadcasting with social media – and are being successful. One common example, they can ‘broadcast’ on their Twitter account and say, “hey you’ve engaged with us on these other channels but if you want gadgets and good deals on gadgets, follow this Twitter account and we’re going to tell you we’ve got discounts.

So that’s really more of a traditional, broadcast-style mechanism being applied to social media: Here’s the component, here’s the deal, here’s the discount; and it works because there’s an audience for it. If you have a brand, if you have company that has an audience that is thirsty for a discount, or what’s the latest opportunity to buy from you, then you can broadcast; you can do the traditional non-engagement stuff and be successful with it.

You can actually be successful using social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn exclusively as advertising channels. Social ads allow you to deliver more relevant messages to a more relevant audience because they let me let me filter that relevancy a little bit. We have a case study in the book that is just for those brands and people who are saying: you know what, I don’t have time to join the conversation, buy I do have the time however to take out Facebook ad, and I can totally target it to the right audience and absolutely deliver, and get it on a conversion to link it back.

I agree with you that advertising isn’t the same as true engagement (with your audience). But if a brand is choosing to use any one social media channels specifically for that reason  and they’ve got an audience that will respond to it – then I think it’s totally acceptable.

If brands don’t have the resources to participate in the conversation via social media (including their own social media channels), should they at least promote a forum where stakeholders can communicate with each other?

I think it’s really good to have a channel for buyers only if you have that type of business , but also have that channel for the engagement, you know, for the questions, for the customers. As long as you have some mechanism to serve your audience in the social channel, I think you’re going to be in pretty good shape.

There’s this guy, Gary Vaynerchuk, who I hear likes to drink a lot of wine and rant about social media. Well, he recently did a YouTube video, “There’s No Such Thing As Social Media.” Thoughts?

Gary is very, very good at choosing a statement that’s going to get people fired up, and it’s a good talking point. I think he probably was he was just trying to say that we have communicated as human beings and as buoyant in businesses the same way for decades, for centuries even. It’s just that this new Internet technology provide us with new real-time channels to communicate in very different ways from the dynamic standpoint.

We have been communicating as people, as consumers, and as brands for decades or centuries, it’s just a different channel now. So I like to try to tell people that social media, especially social media marketing, has nothing to do with technology; it has everything to do with communications. It’s just a matter of understanding the environment in which you are communicating.

I would prospect on Gary to prolong the argument, but every medium of communications is “social” to a degree, even television. We watch a television program, and even the next day without any technology involved, we talk to other people about that program. It’s just that now we have a mechanism and a forum online, where we can watch and talk at the same time or in some sort of real time fashion, which a larger group of people if we wish. So it’s just that the channels have changed a little bit, every medium is social to a degree, it’s just that now that social nature is amplified because the technology overlaps whenever so much.

I think that social media will always sort of refer to online social platforms where consumers connect. I don’t really see that term going away anytime soon, simply because it’s just too ubiquitous throughout the conversations now. Everybody uses it. Even traditional media slaps social media link on their broadcast properties. So I don’t see that term really going away and not necessarily that it needs to; because if you look at it from its most broad perspective, we’re talking about medium of communication that allows you to be social, and to value and to communicate with more than one person at the time. It’s in our branding.

Does social media marketing always need to be about measuring Return on Investment, (ROI)?

Return on Investment will forever, be a mathematical equation: How much you make, minus how much you spend, and divide that by how much you spend, and that’s your percentage of ROI. That will never change. If you think about it in ROI in that context then the only goal you ever have is to make money. So I think asking, “what’s the ROI in social media,” is an incomplete question and will always get an incomplete answer because the better question is to pull back and say, what do I get in return? Because, you can get so much more than money in return from social media.

It might be a debate of semantics but at the same time, I can use social media to improve my customer service; and therefore my return is that I get higher customer satisfaction. I can use it to facilitate research and development, which means new product features. I can get intelligence about the audience that I’m serving. I can use social media to enhance my branding awareness just what it looks like a television or an outdoor board campaign in a traditional advertising. All of that is certainly not measured in dollars, yet all of that essential to doing business. You don’t measure how much money you get back from your billboard campaign; you use it to establish brand presence and build awareness about what you’re doing and who you are, and take every opportunity to measure sentiment from it.

So your return is exposure; and maybe messaging pick up and survey responses from people. In marketing for decades and even centuries, we have been measuring various things that we get return for our efforts that were not about receiving money. Social media is no different. If you want ROI on social media, then at least one of your goals needs to be driving leads, driving sales, or consumer research. You could combine them all, too. For example, I want to drive new product ideas; and therefore I can launch those products and measure how many of those new products are sold based on the feedback I’ve got from social media.

There’s so much more out there to measure and to be proud of getting back out of your social media efforts than just money. And so when it comes to setting those, we identified in our book the seven business drivers of social media marketing. We’ve talked about those in depth. Those seven business drivers are basically the big bucket goals. And those are

  1. Enhancing or branding awareness
  2. Protecting your reputation
  3. Extending your public relations
  4. Extending your customer service
  5. Building community
  6. Facilitating research and development, and;
  7. Driving sales.

You can pick one, you can three, you can pick all seven; and then you can focus on what will be your strategy for driving more sales using social media.

Give us a couple scenarios of how social media can have measurable business objectives

Sure, let’s go down to some specific objectives:

  • MONEY: Say for example, I want to draw out fifty thousand dollars in new revenue from Facebook by the end of the year. Now, you’ve got a really specific objective statement that you can start to build strategies around that will allow you to accomplish that in your certain strategic planning process.
  • REPUTATION: If your goal is protecting your reputation, that has two sides to it. One, you want to find all the negative mentions about your brand online, and have a strategy for how to respond and mitigate as many of those as you can. Then, you’re also going to want to look at your search engine rankings and where you’ve ranked, and ask yourself, do you deserve to be rank number one (or more prominently than you are now) for certain terms? And if we do, let’s fight to accomplish that engine, both SEO and search, and social searches are becoming a big part of search engines’ results.

How about with technology? What do you use, or recommend others check out?

The enterprise software is starting to get there because they’re consolidating a lot of the needs into singular platforms around social media management systems, things like that. The problem though is that no one solution does everything and no one solution fits every need. So you really have to look at your business and what you’re trying to do, what your goals are and so forth before you can really figure out what’s the best fit.

If you’re looking for engagements, listening in a social media monitoring, workflow managements and sort of that real time, read and react, respond type of software. You’re going to look at the software and programs like Radian6.

If you broaden that scope out there and say, okay we also want to have a publishing and a management system that allows us to publish some multiple accounts over several different networks? Maybe you want to start looking at the social media management space – publishing and distributing it fast and maybe even Internet marketing tools – which started out as an SEO tools and has now expanded out into the social media management space. HubSpot has a large suite of software that is good for medium and small business as well as large companies.

If you’re really focused on lead generation and goal convergent tracking on your website and through your social channels, then you’re going to want to look at a HubSpot or an Argyle Social.

But my point is that there’s lots of software out there that does lots of different things. It’s really about identifying what your goals are and what your needs are in finding the software that fits. Unfortunately, the landscape that we’re in right now in the social technologies landscape is that there really is no one software platform or set of software platforms that’s going to be good for everybody, it’s based on budget, it’s based on what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s based on your technology, your integration needs, so on and so forth.

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