Is Your Social Media Clap-on, Clap-off?

Remember those TV ads for clap-on, clap-off light switches and key chains..? You clapped your hands and on went the light or beep went your key chain. You clapped your hands again and off went the light and your key chain stopped beeping.

Are you looking at social media in the same way? Clap your hands and on goes your social media ‘campaign’. Clap your hands again and it’s turned off.

Clap-clap  and you slap on a social media campaign. The young-kid does a Facebook page and some cute tweets. Somebody ghostwrites a blog for you or you write a post oh, every month or two. And you do something…not sure what or why, but something that someone says is cute and funny and email it to your customers.

BAM! There it is. Social media.

And you sit back and wait…and wait. And after awhile,  if you remember your social media campaign…you realize nothing has happened:

  • No ‘conversations’ have occurred, whatever those were;
  • No referrals,
  • No sustained increase in traffic to your site,
  • The number of prospects has not increased,
  • Nor have the number of referrals.
  • Conversion rates stay abysmally low.

And you’re looking for that someone who said ‘social media’.

And you clap-clap and it’s turned off. Blog comes down. The young kid is fired. Tweets stop and the Facebook page dies of neglect with minimal notice or complaint from its members.

And no one’s world is worse for the wear and tear.


Clap-clap. Your social media effort is successful.

  • Your company’s  Facebook page is jumping with updates and comments, likes and photos.
  • Your blog is regularly updated by you and your members, maybe you have some guest bloggers, too. Maybe they are customers or vendors?
  • Your Twitter account is growing with real followers having real conversations about your products, your company…even you.
  • Other resources like Yelp, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, YouTube…and more are used.

Now, more people are talking about your products, your services, what they like about it, what they WOULD like about it if you heard them. They suggest things you could change, things to improve…what if the packaging was easier to open or had this feature or didn’t have that feature.

Now, more people talk about what …they…DON’T like about it. The statistics show these folks have more conversations on this topic than any other topic. Misery loves company. It loves community, too. And now you have offered them a community, at your expense…literally.

Now what are you going to do?

  • Clap-clap and that last conversation goes away?
  • Clap-clap and those suggestions can be ignored or edited as it implies your leadership lacks vision or you cannot innovate? Or there is a deadline expected for these changes? One you cannot meet?

Your employees, executives, and managers, partners and vendors, investors and board can see that conversation.  Dollars to donuts, Homer, I bet they have had many of these same ideas. Or, they have wanted to have many of these same conversations. With you. With themselves.

Or they are threatened by those conversations. Maybe your culture does not embrace these conversations. Maybe you are threatened as well to see such an open conversation shared openly and transparently with and without your permission. And maybe you are worried what happens when that conversation comes in house…

At this point, you discover the clap-off feature for social media doesn’t work.  It’s like you’re at the opera. You clap and cheer for the opening act. And your key chain starts beeping…and beeping…and beeping.

Once the conversation starts with your prospects and customers, their referrals and your employees, your partners and vendors, board and shareholders…no amount of clapping and calling to order, in-person or digitally, can stop it. You can repress it. You can issue internal company policies. You can fire employees, terminate partners. You can ignore your customers, take those sites down, stop tweeting.

However, those conversations still take place. They  will only move to a more receptive audience: your competitor.  It will be your employees, customers, partners and vendors carrying that conversation to your competitors: current or startup.

Social media, transparent and open conversations, tend to be like the Borg. They absorb everything and everyone one in their path. Resistance is futile. Prepare for it now. Here are but a few ideas to consider before you clap-on for a social media…thing, strategy or campaign, whatever people call it.

Start with those closest to you. That’s your employees. Do you have an open, transparent, culture? How do you respond to failure or criticism? How do you respond to a new idea? Is everyone, including you the leader, prepared for an onslought of feedback…should it happen?

What do you offer that is worth discussing? You will find out what is interesting when you join this conversation. Interesting does not mean appealingInteresting means how does your audience answer these three questions with your offering:

  • What’s in it for them?
  • Why should they care?
  • Why should they believe?

So, where do you turn to for answers?

  • The first place to look for answers are your employees.
  • The next place to look are their conversations with customers.
  • The next place to look is your customers. Call them.
  • Then your vendors and partners.

All of them can answer that question. And it will be different than what you expect. Probably.

Are you prepared for change? Do you have the systems to handle change? How quickly can you change a feature?  How quickly can you add a product? How quickly can you address questions and concerns, rants and raves, vigilantes and evangelists?

Can you let go? The ‘you’ is both you personally and the you of your company. The conversation remains in your hands. But, now there are many hands.

This post has gone on too long. That may be the point. Social media starts a conversation that once started does not stop even at the end of a post. That’s why comments on a blog post are so simple and powerful.

But I recommend you ask yourselves now what is being said about your offering by those who talk it about now. Social media will only accelerate the spread of that message. It won’t change the message.  Social media can no more change your message than lipstick can change a pig’s face.  Make sure you like the answer to some of these questions before you clap your hands and slap on a social media…something… for your company. Once you have turned it on, you can’t clap your hands and turn it off.


About the author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of a small business. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit.

istockphoto from BillCourtney42


Zane Safrit Zane Safrit's My passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. Zane's blog is Zane Safrit.

17 Reactions
  1. Wow, Zane, powerful post. I had to read this a couple of times to let it all sink in. Thanks for the inspiring reminders of staying consistent. I was just at a Jay Conrad Levinson talk in Miami at the Entrepreneur conference and he shared 20 “Ent” words to help small biz owners be successful — the first one was Commitment. Your post reinforced, for me, that we need to be committed to our employees, to our customers, to our marketing efforts and take the long view. It isn’t a clap-on, clap-off sort of thing, which you wisely point out.

  2. Social media works very well you just have to take the time and really put an effort. It truly requires discipline to keep things going in the right direction.

  3. TJ, thanks. I appreciate that. I heard that conference was outstanding. Was it?

    Twitterers. Thanks!

  4. Transparency and a willingness to really listen to criticism are hard to develop. You need a tough skin. But people who are able to resist being defensive and get to the source of the concern will soon discover that offense was not intended. Customers are just telling you what they want. Sure you can’t keep all of them happy, but if they know they were heard, it goes a long way. They may not buy from you then, but if you answer their criticism well they’ll be the first ones in line. Great post Zane!

  5. Nice article. i can say that my social media is clap-on.

  6. Outstanding post! No problem with the length of it … it was written with passion! I hope the businesses you directed your comments toward actually READ this. Perhaps someone they know who “gets it” will send them a link.

    No “clap-off” here, just clappING!

  7. Social Media is a dynamic medium that once it is activated thrives on TLC.

    Don’t bother getting started if you do not have the stamina to stay active for the long run.

    You made some very good points about initiating a social conversation, only to fade off into the sunset and leave your audience hanging.

    Entrepreneurs, brands, companies do well to pay close attention to this post and understand social media is not to be underestimated.

  8. Social media and viral marketing is exciting and worthwhile, since you can experience positive ROI on your time and effort in many different ways, it can dramatically increase your bottom line whether through direct or indirect results. You just need to make sure you are tracking it from start to finish.

    Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

  9. Awesome post, Zane. Possibly the best one I’ve read from you.

    Two days ago, I started a new blog. A new little “project.”

    I may have opened a can of worms in my industry with it.

    I’ve officially “clapped it on” now, according to you.

    And now, after reading your post here, it looks like I won’t be able to clap it off.

    Thank you for making me think about the power of a clap.

    (I think)

    The Franchise King

  10. What a magnificent post Zane!
    It has inspired me to do further research into my social media marketing tactics for a lot of adjustments to be made.

  11. Excellent post Zane! You hit the nail on the head: social media doesn’t change the message, it only amplifies it. Social media will not save a bad product. If you have confidence in your product and your customers are happy, you should not be afraid of social media and should be absolutely embracing it. If you have unhappy customers and/or are not confident in your ability to deliver a quality product, social media may accelerate the opening of a huge pandora’s box.


  12. Nick @ Brick Marketing

    These are solid social media tips for any type of business. I have seen many companies in recent times take this clap off/on approach. I have always maintained that a solid social media marketing campaign is a long term one that evolves and builds as the business does. Also, social media is similar to SEO in that it take time, effort and a tremendous amount of patience and dedication to the medium.

  13. Wow – this was really insightful for me. It brought to my mind so many things I had never considered. I’ve had a lot of potential clients and current clients ask me if I can do Social media for them. And I ‘can’ but I’ve said I felt it needed more discussion on the topic. No more discussion ever really happens.

    But this is such a great point – that not only should more discussion happen but it shouldn’t be stepped into lightly just because it’s the ‘it’ thing to do as a business.

  14. Zane: Outstanding post! I will share this with several of my business contacts in the near future. I am applauding you, clapping with both my hands. We will continue our conversation on Friday! 🙂

  15. Exactly…Social Networking ON-LINE is exactly the same (perhaps more 3-D) as social networking at your local Chamber of Commerce or networking groups. The people who stand out, make contacts & actively communicate with their peers are the ones who are successful.
    Listening is usually the missing link in this complex problem & on-line social networking leaves a BIG gap for new people to fall into on that issue. It’s so easy to just spit out information & think that will bring business, reality is not so kind.
    We each need to become fully developed walking, talking PEOPLE that “just happen to be” easily accessible on-line! Find a way to make yourself a resource & you will become successful.

    Happy Tweeting, FaceBooking, etc.

  16. Completely agree with your post, it seems that the problem is that marketing managers want to run there social media activity like their ad campaigns planning, running and then evaluating activity in nice neat segments.

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