Slim Pickens as B-52 Bomber pilot Major T. J. "King" Kong, in the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Original Image Source:

A Pragmatic Social Media Strategy

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Google+, and Pinterest, and Goodreads, and…

Back in ancient times; before the era of Social Media Ninja Gurus, 1994 to be exact, James Collins and Jerry Porras published the landmark Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies [Affiliate Link].

While it achieved landmark status (whatever that actually is) for its in-depth analysis of just what made successful companies successful, it’s widely remembered for a 2-page “Interlude” between Chapters 2 and 3 titled: “No ‘Tyranny of the Or’ (Embrace the ‘Genius of the And’)”

They wrote:

Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of the OR,” highly-visonary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND” — the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.

Fast Forward to 2012

The traditional media is rife with stories pitting one social site against another:

The media loves a good dust-up; but in reality, listening to these articles and choosing one social network over another for your business is precisely the wrong thing to do. Choosing one social network over another because you clients and/or prospective clients are on them is the right way to make that decision.

For example: my video production company Brunswick Media Services has a presence on almost every popular social network: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. For my business, I have little interaction with prospective clients via Facebook. It’s just the way it is. While some of my clients are indeed on Facebook, they are not using it as part of their job, for the majority of them, Facebook is a place for personal connections, not a resource they go to when looking for a video production company.

I reach my clients through other social networks, mostly Twitter and LinkedIn. I reach my friends mostly through Facebook, but more and more those touchpoints are moving to other networks like Pinnterest, Vimeo, and Google+. At the risk of flying in the face of some of the more popular self-appointed Social Media Ninja Gurus out there, it is not essential for me to have a Facebook Fan Page for Brunswick Media Services, in fact, for the most part social media does not drive my marketing, my marketing drives my social media choices, and that’s OK. There I said it. Your business may be very different than mine, and you may find Facebook is where your clients and potential clients are.

When Google introduced the Google+ network, I was on it within the first 2 days. Is it the best thing ever? Perhaps not, but it has distinct advantages (pluses even) for me including: Search Engine Optimization (SEO); a wide network of people I had not connected with on other services, a much more robust system for discussion, and a community of fiercely loyal users to tap into. All of these make it well worth my time. Your mileage may vary.

The Pragmatic Part

Social Media takes time and effort. There are dozens of networks, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Everyone’s time is limited, so how do you decide what to spend your limited time doing? The web is filled with Social Media Ninja Gurus writing daily “You MUST Be on XX Network” blog posts. You read one and it says a social media strategy without Facebook is evil, or ignoring Pinterest is the greatest sin since the apple.

The big problem I see in many of the “You MUST Be on XX Network” blog posts, news stories, and books is that glaring generalizations are repeated until they become “facts”. The authors often quote the latest “wow” statistics of how many messages are shared on one network over another, and before long, you start believing that every last bit of their mumbo-jumbo applies to you. The reality is, if your clients and potential clients are not on a given service, or do not use that service to find businesses like yours, you may just be wasting you time trying to market your business on that network.

So here’s my suggestion for a pragmatic approach:

  1. Find out what social media sites your current clients/customers are in the social media world.
  2. Spend time there too.
  3. Have a presence on the less relevant ones, just don’t kill yourself over them.
  4. When new networks come along, keep an eye on them, and see if they have potential.
  5. Ignore the Gurus, they’re probably just selling books anyway.

Now, that being said; I’m a huge fan of social media, and use it daily, and encourage my clients to do so as well. There are plenty of other ways to use social media sites other than just for marketing. I use Twitter to keep in touch with colleagues, share news, find information, get project feedback, enhance SEO, etc.

Many of the clients that I consult for use social media for the same reasons, but also for things like customer service, client feedback, organizing events, the list goes on. As marketers, we can sometimes lose sight of the broader picture, and view everything as a marketing/sales channel. While Twitter may be a great tool for your business to find clients and customers, I might have better luck with Pinterest. If you’re using social media to sell industrial valves, Facebook may not be the ideal network for you, LinkedIn may produce better results for you. Conversely, if you’re selling knitting supplies to hobbyists, Facebook may just be the place for you. Think of it like space advertising, your ad for the new line of industrial valves will most likely produce better results from a trade magazine than the local penny-saver.

The next time you read a “You MUST Be on XX Network” story, keep a critical eye out, and ask yourself, or better yet, ask your clients if that really might be a great place for you to be or not.