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01/11/2010 It's Not About The Tools

Twitter is a blast. Facebook keeps me connected. Who can stop watching YouTube?

Face it, social media tools and channels are fun and numerous. Who can blame marketers who want to focus on them?

The problem is that many businesses start building this digital marketing channel by focusing too much on the tools and not enough on the strategy. Do you know why you're venturing into social media? Do you know what you're trying to achieve? Do you know how you'll act when you start getting into real dialog?

Sometimes marketers get lucky. They start something and somehow they figure it out down the line. The ones that do are curious risk-takers willing to invest time in a new adventure.

Most marketing departments aren't like this though. Everyone is extremely busy; there are numerous pressures from above and below. One new pressure, they find, is the push to get into social media. There's so much buzz that everyone, from the CEO down to the cleaning crew, knows about it. So why, they all ask, isn't our business using social media.

That's when you get the push toward the tools. I hear this more than you can imagine. We need TwitterNingFacebookBlog. Previously it was Widgets and Flash sites. But if you don't ask the why, what and how, chances or you won't be very successful.

Jeremiah Owyang had a great line in a recent blog:
Social marketing strategy "should be focused first on socialgraphics (how your customers use these tools) and business goals -not reacting to the latest technology."

Think about it. It's not how your business uses the tools; it's how your customers use the tools.

I completely understand why marketers want to try new channels. The difference is that if you try a test in the cable TV channel and it doesn't work, nobody notices. (If a TV ad runs on cable, and no one sees it, is it still an ad?) Social media and the Web are not so forgiving. If you jump into social media, and don't give it the proper attention, people may notice for a long time.

Marketers, resist the temptation and allure of the tools for your business. Build your digital strategy by answering the why, what and how. It will make you much more successful.

And if you can't resist, create those channels and tools for yourself, individually, and work them hard. You'll probably learn so much that when you bring this knowledge back into your business, you can act as a true social media leader.


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