Should your business be on social media? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m very sure that it’s the wrong question to be asking; or, more accurately, it isn’t the primary question you should be asking.
Because social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – are very powerful delivery tools, but that’s all they are – methods of delivery. Before you decide how to send the message, you need to figure out what the message is. To use an old-fashioned metaphor, it’s like deciding whether you should call or write a letter before you know what you want to say to someone – or even if you have anything to say.
Everybody seems to be obsessed with the delivery vehicle, but they are focused on the wrong thing. Before you decide “how” you communicate, you need to figure out “why” you’re communicating and “what” you’re communicating. Because if you don’t figure out that piece first, your delivery vehicle will be empty when it arrives at its destination.
You argue that “the medium is the message” but I argue that the medium is merely a message amplifier. Once you have your core message, the medium can amplify that message – i.e., a stodgy old law firm recruiting on Twitter amplifies the message of growth by symbolizing that the firm isn’t so stodgy anymore and it therefore might be a cool place to work.
To be clear – social media is a tactic; it is not a strategy. Yes, it can get intricate pretty quickly and there’s a point where you probably need someone to help you navigate those intricacies. But only after you’ve figured out the Why and the What and have started to implement the How.
Determining the Why and the What before the How cuts both ways; sometimes the How doesn’t work anymore, and strategists need to constantly evaluate the How to make sure they’re getting maximum benefit. That’s why I feel that the recent gnashing of teeth over the New Orleans Times-Picayune decision to only deliver a physical newspaper three days a week is somewhat misplaced. Yes, it’s a painful shift for a lot of people, but at some point reality has to win out. This isn’t the “death of news” in New Orleans ( or at least it doesn’t have to be). Printing the news on paper has become a less viable way to transmit the news, but there are still plenty of ways to transmit that news – online, through apps, and through partnerships with other media such as television and radio. The Why and the What of the news business is straightforward and understood; the How is in flux. But the people of New Orleans will still be served by a great news organization.
So the next time a business tells you that “we have to have to have a Facebook page” the response should not be “Great idea! – Here’s what we’ll do!” It should be “why?” Is the organization’s audience on Facebook when they’re making buying decisions? Are they in “business mode” when they’re on Facebook? Often times, the answer is No – and if it is, that’s fine.
There are plenty of different marketing channels out there (you may have noticed). As a marketer, you need to have an understanding of all of them so that you can know when to activate these different channels. And maybe you have a gargantuan budget and you can afford to fill all of those channels and keep them filled all the time.
So, please – decide your delivery tactics after you figure out what you’re going to say and why you’re going to say it.