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Posted: August 31, 2009

Twitter, Yammer, Facebook—should you do it all?

Don't try to be an expert in everything: Just focus on what's important

Tracy Broderick

I’ve always maintained that marketing - and media - are a combination of art and science. 

If traditional media/marketing averages 50 percent art to 50 percent science, then social media marketing is even more skewed toward art – maybe closer to 80 percent.  It is un-tested, un-standardized, extremely dynamic and very subjective.  The pace and variety of social media are what makes it such exciting fodder for marketers, publicists, journalists, bloggers and tweeters.  There is new technology waiting to be discovered or talked about every day.

So where do you begin?  How do you keep up with all of the new technology and apply it to your business? 

I found a liberating answer in a blog post  from Alexandra Samuel, CEO of Social Signal, a Vancouver-based company that builds online communities for nonprofit, government and business clients: You can’t -- so don’t even try. 

Judging from the numerous responses, countless others also found solace in the proclamation that it is humanly impossible to keep up with the technology and social platforms which multiply exponentially each day. 

According to Ms. Samuel, the minute you stop trying to keep up, you can get ahead with what matters to you, your team and your business. It’s about focusing on adopting only the technologies that support your goals and priorities and align with your company’s mission, vision, values.  In other words, don’t feel pressured to chase every new technology.  Just because it’s hot and everyone seems to be doing it does not mean it’s effective in accomplishing your goals.

The real goal of social media engagement is building quality relationships.  This really isn’t anything different from what you’ve been trying to accomplish all along.  There is just a new set of tools to consider for getting you there. 

You know your customers better than anyone.  By customers, I mean all of the audiences that are important to you:  consumers, distributors, retailers, employees, colleagues, shareholders, vendors.  Ask yourself if a specific platform, technology or resource may be a good solution for building or enhancing those relationships. 

While all social media may not be right for your business, it’s helpful to spend time learning about the range of options available and then dig in to learn more about the ones that may resonate with your audiences.  So where do you start?  How do you navigate this big new territory?

Focus on what’s important to you.  Don’t try to become an expert in everything.  We already agreed that is an impossible task, given the speed at which technology is evolving. 

Test the waters with social networking sites.  Experience what the buzz is about.  Ask your friends, customers and colleagues how they are engaging in conversations on the web.  Look at what your competitors are doing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yammer. 

Keep in mind that social networks are not one size fits all.  The sites with the most buzz may not be the most relevant space for you to hold a conversation with your customers.

Subscribe to RSS feeds and bookmarking tools.  I love Google Reader for organizing feeds from my favorite blogs/sites; but there are countless other tools, so experiment. Start your collection off with some quick, informative reads:

Sign up for newsletters from SmartBrief.  Check out their newest:  Smartbrief on Social Media.

Sign up for free webinars or read a book.
There are dozens of free webinars each month.  You may need to weed through options to find the most relevant, but there’s nothing to lose by listening in for the first 10 minutes, and leaving the call if it doesn’t pertain to your needs.

Two primers on social media which you may find inspiring:
• Social Media Marketing:  An Hour a Day by Dave Evans (2008)
• Groundswell:  Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research).

Technology in and of itself is not going to change your business.  What will move your business forward is the way you embrace the technology that matters most to you and your customers.  The science of new technology can be intimidating, but how you choose to use that technology to your unique advantage is an art that you alone can create.

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Tracy Broderick is Vice President/Audience Planning at Karsh & Hagan, a strategic, creative and digital agency, headquartered in Denver.

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