I’m going to explain the entire social media thing. It’s very simple. You’re all spending way too much time and effort trying to make it complicated. So here goes. Whenever you want to say “social media”, just say “phone” instead. That’s it. Do that and it will all make sense.

You see, you probably have a phone in your home and at work. You don’t think about doing “phone” or having a “phone” strategy or not having enough time for “phone”. You just have a phone. It’s part of your personal and professional life and not a separate and stand-alone thing that you have to make time for.

When the phone rings at work, you don’t stare at it blankly, wondering how best to engage with and monetize your “phone” community. You’re not concerned with how answering it will align with overall corporate branding and the “phone” acceptable use policy. You just pick it up and say, “How can I help you?” Why would you do anything different with social media? If a customer is asking for help, who really cares whether she chooses to call you or tweet you? At the other end of that message is a customer that wants and needs your help. That’s what matters.

Social media is the new phone! The phone was just the new “talking” anyway. I’ll bet that when the phone was first invented and a company had their first one installed it went a little something like this. “Ok, we’ll only have one phone and one person who is authorized to answer it. That’s it.” A lot of time was wasted debating how the phone would ultimately destroy productivity and potentially embarrass the company when employees were allowed to “talk” to customers. At some point someone must have realized that if you just replace “phone” with “talking” it all made sense, because now pretty much everyone has a phone and no one really puts any thought into how and when to use it. They just use it to talk to people.

Today the madness continues though with social media. We spend a lot of time debating how useful it is for business. My response? Why don’t we question all the other normal things we do as part of our regular workday too? Someone was once arguing with me intensely that social media was a waste of time. I asked him what he had accomplished so far in his workday. This caught him by surprise. His answer was that he had been to three boring and pointless meetings and had written a bunch of useless reports that no one would ever read. Wow! All that highly productive work was the reason he didn’t have time to use social media and talk to his customers. When I asked him what his plans were for the rest of the day he told me “cold calling” on the phone. Yikes!

If you still believe that you don’t have time to use social media, no problem. We can still be friends even if you’re not on Facebook. Just make sure you enjoy that extra long and boring meeting though! Nail that TPS report too and don’t forget to put the new coversheet on it because, you know, we’re doing that before they go out now. Just keep in mind that while you’re busy doing all that highly productive work, your competitors are getting friendly with your customers on Facebook, following up on real leads from Twitter and hiring all your top talent away on LinkedIn.

Social media is much more powerful than the phone. If you’re not using it, your competitors are doing all the talking.