Nothing has transformed our ability to communicate like social media. Sure, being able to fax a document was pretty handy and certainly email made sharing information much easier and quicker. But social media has given everyone, and I mean everyone, the power to be a communicator, a marketer, a critic. This is a good thing. But like all good things, we need to manage it correctly or it gets out of hand.
In the early phases of social media—when we talked about “the” Facebook and “that” Twitter—professional communicators were likely to have personal accounts, but hadn’t quite seen how social media could be used strategically. As we got more accustomed to social networks and they played a bigger role in how we shared information, we began to consider their potential as a tool for business. And that was about it: a tool.
Truth is, these very powerful tools require as much strategic planning as any other form of marketing communications. You would never just send out a news release. Instead, you’d think about the content, the messaging, who in the media should receive it, the plan for follow-up and the outcome.
There is no doubt that successful businesses recognize the power of social media. Now we must consider how social media will be incorporated into an organization’s overall communications and marketing strategy. It is not enough to simply start a Facebook page or a Pinterest page. You need to consider why you utilize these tools and what you hope to accomplish with them. Perhaps, for example, a blog is the best digital tool for your business, or maybe Yelp will be more effective.
Furthermore, you must consider what kind of image you want to portray in the social space. It isn’t enough to have thousands of fans on Facebook. You must also understand what those fans are doing with the content you provide. Are they interacting with you? Are they sharing across their social networks? I’d rather have 50 engaged fans than 500 who do nothing with my information.
The tools are going to change. Consumers voluntarily follow your brand in the social space. You can’t control when they come or go. But what you can control is the content they see and the interaction with them once they are engaged. When you focus on content and strategy, you’ll find success no matter what the tool.
This article was originally written for the Phoenix Business Journal, where it appeared on July 6th.