REMEMBER THAT SONG FROM SESAME STREET that went something like, one of these things is not like the other? One of these things just doesn’t belong… Viewers had to choose what things belonged together and/or identify what was different. If you’re in business, you likely already know that a big part of your success depends on what makes you unique. So if that’s the case, then why would you ‘do’ social media just like (or worse than) your competition?
I am often asked which social media tool or tools should be used by an organization that’s just getting started with social media. Some of those asking have even signed up for several social media accounts before they’ve put the strategy and resources in place to make it work.
If that’s where your organization is with its blog, Twitter account or Facebook page, please take them down and start over. Because there’s only one thing worse than letting other people define your brand (which is what happens when you choose not to go where your audience gets information), and that’s leaving people with the impression that you don’t care.
Far too many organizations fixate on which social media tool to use. As many social media experts will tell you, the tools of social engagement change all the time. They are only a means for engaging and reaching your audience. For any given goal, there will be one or more that will make sense for your organization, but strategy must come first. Here’s a pretty good 5-step plan with links and resources to learn more. You can also find simple examples, and a lot of excellent advice from Chris Brogan, whose posts on social media strategy are as relevant today as they were in 2007. You can’t say that about tools.
Beware anyone who makes recommendations without listening to the existing conversation among those you need to reach. You will never get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re starting from or who you need to talk to, so take the time to find out what people are saying about your company, products, services or ideas (or hire a PR firm to do an online opportunities audit). And if you know who your audience is, go ahead and ask them which social media tools they use as part of your planning.
Learn the rules of engagement
Like any investment, social media requires a certain level of commitment to work. No matter how good your strategy is, it will fail if the people using the tools don’t know what they’re doing. Twitter, for example, is not a platform for a 140-character press release. Eighty percent of your content should be about what your audience wants. Sometimes that’s information about you, but more often than not, it’s about listening to their concerns, sharing valuable content and answering questions. Same goes for your company blog, your videos, and your facebook page, though the type of content you share and your approach to sharing the information will vary somewhat depending on the tool.
A different kind of expensive
So many free tools, and never enough time or energy. That’s a big complaint I hear in the non-profit sector. But it’s critical to invest in hiring people who love what you’re selling, whether it’s an idea, a product or a service. They have the power to be ambassadors for your brand, but you’re going to have to train them and trust them to do it without going to the Board or Shareholders for a decision. Speed and responsiveness are key.
Brand – it’s not your logo
Identify your values, mission and vision statements and deliver on your promises consistently. Unlike targetted one-way marketing, being in the medium with a crafted marketing message is not enough — in fact, if it’s too slick, your campaign messages may even be harmful for your brand, unless they’re aligned with what your audience already believes about you. All online and offline interactions your organization has with stakeholders must align with your brand and offer something your audience wants. If it is, audiences move from ‘Whatever’ to ‘Gee, that’s kind of interesting’ and finally to ‘that’s so much about my values, I’m going to tell everyone I know’.
Putting it all together
The number of new tools and the sheer quantity of advice available to organizations on social media can be daunting, especially for smaller organizations. But the old PR rules still apply in terms of strategy and issues management. Invest time planning and ask yourself what outcomes you want to achieve. Make sure you devise a way to measure whether it’s working. If you do all that and you love what you do, social media will amplify your passion with the right audience, at the right time, using the right tools. You’ll be with the three kids that ‘belong together’.
Three of these kids belong together
Three of these kids are kind of the same
But one of these kids is doing her own thing
Now it’s time to play our game
It’s time to play our game.
Kind of catchy, isn’t it?