My hopes ran high when I ran across a recent Brian Solis Advertising Age column headlined “The Social Media Style Guide.” “Excellent!” I said to myself. “At last, best practices for new media where no one really seems to know (or is willing to say) how to do it right. I'm ready to be impressed.”

But now I'm depressed. The column was no help at all. It's not that what Brian Solis says is wrong. In fact, it's absolutely right. His Eight Steps to Establishing a Brand Persona include (condensed version):social-media-waste-of-time

Core Values. “… we need to specify what we stand for and weave it into all we do.

Brand Pillars. ”…establish the principal, central themes that convey our uniqueness and value.
Promise. “What is our mission and how does it introduce value to those who align with our purpose.”
Aspirations. “…representative of the stature and mission we seek today and over time.”
Brand Characteristics. “…the traits we wish to associate with the brand represented through our actions, words and overall behavior.”
Opportunities. “…that emerge that allow us to connect to those seeking solutions we had yet to identify.”
Culture.
“People need something they can align with, and it is our culture that serves as the magnet to our purpose and aspirations.”
Personality. “If the brand was a person, how would it appear? How would it sound? How would it interact with others? How would others describe it?”

Been there, done that
No argument here. These are good guidelines for all kinds of effective brand communications. But we've heard it and said it all before — it's what our agency or any other competent resource would tell a client about using any media to communicate with customers and prospects. Unfortunately, they're pretty useless as a guide to using social media for marketing, except maybe as a reminder. There's nothing here that addresses the special circumstances that can make social media difficult for marketers to use.
•    Traditional marketing communications actively pursue customers and prospects. But social media is less aggressive — you invite them to discover you.
•    “Selling” is the fundamental goal of traditional marketing communications. But any kind of hard sell is anathema in most social media.
•    In traditional media, the marketer is in charge of the message. But in social media customers are in charge of a good deal of the content; the marketer loses control.
•    Most marketers demand some kind of success measure for their communications. It's still unclear if this is possible with social media.

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A better way

So what's a smart marketer to do, to get a clear idea of what works and what doesn't in social media? Google to the rescue — look for sites with practical advice and real life examples, like ZeusJones “Best Social Media Marketing” and Chris Wallace's http://promomagazine.com/viralmarketing/news/0330-social-media-indepth/ " target="_blank">recent article in Promo magazine.

And take a look at this column that appeared in Advertising Age on the same day as “The Social Media Style Guide.” http://adage.com/columns/article?article_id=143750 " target="_blank">Hadji Williams talks about so-called marketing gurus, and asks: “What if all the gurus, particularly those of us in marketing, PR and social media, just said: “I don't know” — out loud?