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Social Media Decision Making

Last week I joined the team at New Kind. I could not be more excited to get to work with everyone here.

They are community builders, writers, designers, and brand experts who see where the world is going and work with our clients every day to bring them there.

I am excited to help our clients reach their full potential in the world of social media. “Full potential” in social media means utilizing social media channels to build a community around your organization. That has to be the end goal for any effective strategy, and the only way to build that community is to engage in two-way communication.

“A Facebook strategy”… or “Twitter strategy”… or “Tumblr strategy”… isn’t a strategy. Those are tools of the trade, great tools, powerful tools, but tools all the same.

Four years ago when I first started working in social media, we were thinking about our Second Life strategy, as well as considering Orkut and MySpace. Today, few brands would consider any of those platforms. Many of the other services that we used then are either out of business or were absorbed by more dominant companies.

The social media universe today is ever changing. I give presentations on social media often, and I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people tense up when I mention a new service.

“Path? What’s that?”

“Do I really need a Pinterest strategy?”

“Does anyone use foursquare?”

These are common questions, and all of them make sense from a brand perspective. After all, most organizations do not have the resources to build an effective presence for every service that exists, and I would never recommend that you launch on a social network where you can’t sustain your efforts.

My advice is to pay attention to new services as they emerge because you never know which one will take off. But the far more important task is to develop a plan that will fit in with any and all social networks.

I always tell people it isn’t the services that matter, nor the tools, it is your viewpoint on what you are trying to accomplish and how that is ultimately the most important.

Services will come and go. Platforms will fade. It is the principles behind how to use social media that are not going away. Over decades, people had become accustomed to one-way communication as speakers communicated from podiums and we took notes, television shows and news only generated conversation inside of our living room or around the water cooler, if that, and we read the news that editors decided that we should read.

One-way communication was the way to go in this world. Brands worried about control, always, and the ultimate goal was to deliver a message to us common folk. The goal was decidedly not to hear back from us.

Today, however, television broadcasts weave in Twitter and promote hashtags. People tell the world what they are watching on GetGlue. We expect our political leaders to communicate through social media, and actually answer our questions from time to time. More and more of us use services like Flipboard to digest the news that we want to read, as opposed to the news that others want us to read.

No matter what services come and go, the genie is not going back in the bottle. Two-way communication is here to stay, as is consumer generated content. Your organization must navigate the social media universe with that in mind.

For now, virtually every business (I might argue every business) needs a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account as part of its strategy.

But if you have compelling visuals and value showing your story? Instagram might be a good fit for your brand, as it has been for Kate Spade, Starbucks, and others.

Do you have content that translates well to video? Consider YouTube or Vimeo as the home for your content.

Do you have a physical location and wish to extend rewards to frequent customers? Foursquare might be essential.

Pinterest is the fastest growing social network of the moment, and Tumblr the fastest growing microblogging software. Both might fit within your overall social media strategy, but you have to decide where your customers are as well.

One of the best examples of that decision making recently was Chobani Yogurt’s decision to sign up for Pinterest. They only made the call to sign up for Pinterest once they saw their consumers using the service, and then they wisely made the decision to ride the wave.

Your organization needs to keep up with new services, not because you have to be on all of them, but because you need to keep up with your own customer base.

One of the more exciting aspects of social media is that we can actually engage in a conversation with our customers. That is what you have to do to succeed. It is a little scary and hard to control, but can enormously rewarding for the brands that seize the moment and dedicate themselves to building community.

Those brands will be the ones that win the 21st Century.

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