Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Own a Hammer, but I am Not a Carpenter

I had a conversation with a large marketing firm recently. I have more and more of these kinds of conversations, with firms of any size, as CoolPeopleCare grows in size and becomes a place to inform lots of people. So, I have these conversations to brainstorm about how these firms can use our site to grow an audience for their clients' projects, campaigns and initiatives.

And I'm beginning to realize something: no one knows how to use social media.

Sure, lots of people know how to 'do' social media. They can set up blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels. But that's all that happens. Profiles and pages and accounts sit there, doing nothing, offering little in the way of conversation (and sometimes, information).

Having a blog does not make you a blogger any more than having a kitchen makes you a chef.

Having a Twitter profile does not make you a Tweet-er any more than having a suit makes you 'a suit.'

I own a shovel and a rake, but I don't want you to look at my backyard. I own a drill and a saw, but the shelves in my pantry are only mediocre. Perfecting my yard or my craftsmanship takes a strategy.

So why then, are so many marketing types, business leaders and other decision makers hopping on the social media bandwagon without even knowing where they're headed?

Here's the deal: before you set up any online presence (outside of your Web site), spend one hour (yes only one hour) thinking about the following:
  • When someone sees this (Facebook fan page, blog), what do we want them to do with it (read it, interact with us, tell their friends, go to our Web site)?
  • What kind of commitment can we make (daily updates, weekly articles)?
  • What does success look like (a million new site visitors, lots of inbound links, new donors recruited)?
Yes, it will take more than an hour to really answer those questions, but very few people are even spending that amount of time on it.

At CoolPeopleCare, we're having a 90-minute brainstorm tomorrow (they'll be 8 of us) to just talk about how to best use our Facebook fan page.

Don't use Facebook/Twitter/blogging because it's cool. Use it because it works.

More posts about social media:

Comments (4)

I think you're absolutely right. This post reminded me of a favorite quote from Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park:

"You were so busy trying to see if you could do it that you didn’t stop to think about whether you should."

Doing a bunch of stuff is pointless if you don't know why you're doing it.

Really great post. I've been thinking about this a lot and how I don't even want to create a Facebook page for my new company until I believe it will add value - and that may not be ever. I don't know. We've been working on our blogging strategy - and that's super fun and useful. I just went to a conference about the largest companies using social media and was surprised how many are using social media, but didn't have the right stories to match to prove they actually "get it."

And one more thought - I greatly dislike PR firms sending me messages that are supposedly personalized to me but are so obviously not. Either create a press release and send it to me (I get that we don't all have large amounts of time to personalize!) or actually read my blog and comment why the information you're sending is ACTUALLY useful. The in between way is a like direct mail marketing and I throw all that stuff out.

@Rob - Well said. Sometimes, Jeff Goldblum can be a wealth of social media knowledge. :)

But seriously, I think if people did stop and think if they "should" use a certain tool, they'd decide which ones they actually need and really excel using them.

@Rebecca - good call on not creating a FB page until you realize it would add value. On the other hand, it is important for any company in the digital age 'to be found.' So, if FB is one gateway into your work, so be it. Just don't 'send' people there. Use the page to send people to your site.

At CPC, we have profiles/accounts everywhere, but if we haven't found a reason to send people there (new content, special features, etc.), we don't. But, they have resulting in people finding our site, signing up for our emails, changing the world, etc.

And, ditto on the press releases. CPC is embarking on a strategy to engage bloggers in our work...slowly but surely...and VERY carefully. I'll hopefully be sharing secrets of a successful blogger PR strategy soon...

I just love the way you work. Thanks for sharing this great and interesting stuff. Fabulous post! I really enjoyed that.