While this series has been about social media marketing, we haven’t talked much about the actual social media channels you can use to spread your message, engage your users and amplify your brand. Until now.

Facebook, Twitter Marketing? Um, No

Too often when you say the words “social media,” the first thing that comes to mind is Facebook and Twitter. Yes, these are examples of two, very popular, social media platforms. No, that’s not what we’re talking about when we say “social media.” To get pedantic, when we speak of “social media” we are actually talking about the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue.

Of course, the last thing your c-suite actually wants is interactive dialogue about its messages or brand. Or at least it doesn’t know it wants it. What they fear the most is everything spiraling out of control because some “fan” said something mean/bad/legally irreparable/true about their brand.

I find this logic horribly flawed for two reasons.

  1.  If your company can be taken down easily by one fan, perhaps there are bigger issues to address internally.
  2. Being concerned about someone speaking negatively about your company/brand/product indicates a great insecurity about something bigger than your brand.

Both should be addressed before you choose a social media channel.

Marketing Through Interactive Dialogue

Let’s assume, of course by this point you know who you are, what you do, why it’s important; you’ve developed your messages, your audience, and understand what they need and why. You also know how and what to measure about your brand, how to manage it and the value of sharing, collaborating and connecting with your audience, industry and employees.

Now, you must pick a platform, or two or three to set up shop. Like everything we’ve done up to this point, your choice isn’t about you. It’s about where your customers are, where they want to be and what they have to say.

Marketing via social media is less about the name of the platform, and more about what you want your customers to do with the information you provide and how much control you want. Facebook and Twitter are popular and effective social media channels, but they require a certain level of user empowerment. If you want to push out your message and never hear anything in return, stick to press releases, rather than a Twitter stream that’s just canned headlines about your company. If you don’t want to hear what your fans have to say about your product, don’t go on Facebook. (Of course, just because you don't have a Facebook page doesn't mean they're not talking about you.) 

A Social Media Cheat Sheet

A year or so ago, Drew McLellan devised the social media cheat sheet. While a lot can and has changed in a year, many of the platforms are still relevant today and it does a good job of classifying the different types of engagement required. Of course, many more platforms have developed to replace the ones that have faded from the forefront. Guy Kawasaki and Creative5 Media developed a Social Networking Decision Tree that highlights the key decisions one must make when choosing the right platform. Neither should be considered complete representations of the choices; rather, they provide examples of how to accurately evaluate social media channels.



Advertising or Engagement?

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what the right social media platform is. The right platform is the one that makes the most sense for your company’s ability to engage and share and for your customer. Many companies simply want to get their message out. Social media is not meant to be, nor is it a means to one-way advertising. Yes, it can advertise your brand, but that’s a byproduct, not an intentional outcome. If you want advertising, online targeted advertising might be better suited for your company/brand/product.

If you want to do more than promote your brand -- you want to initiate and facilitate a conversation between you and your customer -- social media provides great opportunities. Regardless of platform, your message, audience and value remain the same. Social media platforms will come and go -- being able to pivot, adapt, and adopt to where your customers go next is vital.

The next time your c-suite wrongly assumes that your social media strategy is nothing more than Facebook and Twitter, politely nod and walk away, knowing confidently that you’re building relationships with customers, where they are now and where they are going next.

Next week: Proactive Planning and Policies 

Editor's note: Check Marisa's entire series devoted to Social Media Marketing.