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Posted: October 12, 2010

Social networking vs. social media

Seven ways to get the most out of both

Neil McKenzie

Social networking or social media?

If you are a part of Colorado's creative sector (or even if you are not) you should be using online social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to build your brand. These tools will help you expand your business reach, keep in touch with customers and prospects, and grow your business.

I have used these online tools for several years to get the word out about my photography business, and the results have been very good. As I began to develop and teach my Artrepreneurship course at the Center for Innovation (MSCD) I expanded my network to include people and organizations in the arts and other creative enterprises. I did this for a couple of reasons, to learn more about what was going on in the creative world and to develop contacts which would benefit me and my students.

Today I would say that most arts organizations are using some form of online tools with Twitter and Facebook being the most popular. How effective they use these tools and their overall social strategies are what this article is about.

Social Networking vs. Social Media

I have noticed a change in how these tools are referred to and how they are used. Originally they were referred to as Social Networking and the idea was to build a network of contacts much in the same way as you would do it in person. Your network should include customers, prospects, suppliers, media, industry influentials and others who you find interesting or benefit to your business. If you cultivate your social network, you will grow your brand, increase sales and probably make a lot of new friends along the way.

Social networking is increasingly being referred to as social media and you can see it in how many organizations and individuals employ these tools. I guess that it was inevitable that when a bunch of marketing folks equated Facebook and Twitter with free advertising that we would end up with social media.

Social media is not free. It requires a strategy that is congruent with an organization's overall marketing plans and strategies - you need a reason to be using social media. Social media also requires time and effort to maintain, and a certain skill set of the people executing the social strategy. It's probably not a good idea to turn it over to someone who isn't busy at the time or has no idea why you are on Facebook other than every other organization is doing it.

Social Media and Arts/Creative Organizations

One of the things I have noticed is that a large percentage of arts organizations (most notably museums, galleries, and the arts media) only engage in social media and not social networking. For these organizations, social media is just a way to pump out endless pitches and announcements and not to build relationships with their followers, customers and benefactors. In short they are missing the networking part of the equation.

Arts organizations are under great pressure as their financial support is being tested and the growing trend of less public participation in the arts - many are struggling for survival. You would think that they need as many friends as they can get.

Some ideas:

1. Mix your online social activities with both social media and social networking.
2. Follow the people who follow you. You may need their support and as Guy Kawasaki wrote, "It's courteous to do so and because when you do, some people will respond to you and everyone who follows them will see this-which is more exposure for you". People like being liked, people like being noticed - don't you?
3. Have a clear strategy as to why you are using online social tools. Develop some clear objectives and figure out a way to measure your progress.
4. Staff your online social activities with people who are passionate about your brand and understand your goals and objectives.
5. Some on-line social experts recommend a quantity of followers versus a quality of followers strategy. Strive for the best of both worlds, a large quantity of quality people in your network.
6. Interact and build relationships with your followers, they can have a big impact on your bottom line. Go ahead and make your announcements or pitches but don't forget to make comments, ask questions, give accolades and share things with your network.
7. With the increasing number of organizations using social platforms for social media your message may go unnoticed. I don't think most people would subscribe to a channel that only shows advertisements - well maybe if you are the Home Shopping Network!

Use this opportunity to build a real network and you will be rewarded. You can follow me on Twitter @neilmckenzphoto or on Facebook at neil.mckenzie - I will follow you back!
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Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations in the areas of business and marketing planning.  His recently published book, The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox, was written to take the mystery out of business for artists and other creative professionals. He has more than 30 years experience as a management consultant and corporate marketing executive working with hundreds of organizations including some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a visiting professor at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he developed and teaches Artrepreneurship; and at University College at the University of Denver, where he teaches the graduate course, Marketing for the Arts.  He is a frequent guest lecturer to artists and organizations in the creative sector and writes about the creative economy including several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization.  Neil can be reached at 720-339-3160, or






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Readers Respond

You are so right. The market potential is endless and the small financial investment (especially in a less than favorable economic climate)makes it even more attractive. Studies have shown that in a down market, professional organizations, unions and other support organizations actually grow in numbers. As the winds get rougher, business professionals draw closer together. Social media is viral word of mouth when it done properly, the end results can be amazing. The slight difference between an OK social media campaign and an earth-shattering campaign could be thousands of contacts and millions of dollars... It is no wonder that 57% of companies now have someone in or out of their organization working on social media. Thanks for doing a great job getting the word out! By Events Submit on 2010 10 20
Well done. I think that the key difference is the participation. Instead of the old fashion method of broadcasting to many, the new social network involves participation and listening. The same principals apply where you are networking in person or electronically. By George Tyler on 2010 10 19
David - One would think that all networking is social but I have been to some in-person events that were anything but. Some people use these venues as a speech or one way conversation - all talking, no listening, no engaging. I guess that they are practicing in-person social media! The new movie about Facebook, "The Social Network" uses the term but I get your point. I imagine that in the computer world that if you mention a network people will think that you are talking about machines not people. Patricia - Thanks for the kind words! By Neil McKenzie on 2010 10 13
Great article! No many people understand the difference betteewe social media and social networking and you explained beautiful. Also, it is crucial that people understand that social media is not free, that is actually pretty expensive because it is time consuming and requires expertise to develop appealing content that does not look as a cheap sale/advertising. By Patricia Lepiani on 2010 10 13
The "vs." got my attention. I always thought of media as the platform for communication and sharing information. Social media made media interactive and social which showed marketers how engaging it can be. That said many marketers, journalist and mass communicators push their content almost exclusively and are not being social or networking to your great point. I am personally struggling with "social networking" because all networking is social but not all media is social. Know what I mean? what say you? By David Sandusky on 2010 10 13

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