Thursday, February 4, 2010

Repeat After Me: It's a Tool, It's a Tool, It's a Tool

"Which Social Media Network is better?"

When advertising was merely about maximizing eyeballs that saw a message, this question made perfect sense.

One network would be getting more eyeballs pointed towards it at any given time. If two popular shows were on at the same time slot, one show might get more of one gender or age group than the other. It was easy to choose.

The Internet is not easy. Social Networks are easy for users, but for marketers, comparing social networks is like trying to compare apples and buffalo. Which is better? Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Orkut or....?

Social Media has never been about the technology - it has always been about the relationships.

Social Networks and sites that provide advertising are both tools. Sadly, the one tool they are not is a magic wand. Even in an incredibly niche space, when the only eyeballs likely to see your ad are inherently totally interested in what you have to sell, conversion to a sale is as difficult as it might be to a general market.

Social Media has never been about the technology - it has always been about the relationships.

When people discover a new tool, they buy into it with an almost religious fervor. Flash, for instance, was once a new, exciting tool and every website in the universe felt it incumbent to devlop a Flash landing page - a phenomenon that lasted until...well, it's still going on, actually.

Tools are tools. Where you talk isn't as important as the message itself, but it behooves you to take that message to the right space and the right people. The question should never be, "which is better, tool a or tool b?" the correct question is, "Which is the most appropriate tool for *my* business?" I make this somewhat obvious distinction, because the answer might very well be - *none* of the most popular tools are the best choice for you. An old tool (email) or an obscure tool (IRC) might be exactly what you need to get your message in front of the eyeballs most likely to actually care.

Social Media has never been about the technology - it has always been about the relationships.

Facebook is a great tool to easily reach and potentially engage people on Facebook. How can you know if the people you want to reach are there? Search a few of your keywords. Are people building groups around those topics? Are they discussing those topics, listing them in their profiles? If the answer is yes, then provided you have a strategy to actually Engage those people, then Facebook might be a great place for you. But remember - it's just a tool. If you use it incorrectly, don't be surprised if you get nowhere.

Social Media has never been about the technology - it has always been about the relationships.

But, here's the catch. Using a tool designed for people to connect with one another to market your business is always using the tool slightly incorrectly. LinkedIn is a tool designed to help professionals make professional connections. Any marketing of your product or service looks spammy, because that's not what LI is for - it's a tool to increase your network...not your sales.

If your service is creating custom Twitter backgrounds, then yes, Twitter is a great tool to use. But use it wisely, because if all you post on Twitter is pitches for custom backgrounds, you'll soon be ignored like the other spammers, because Twitter too is more than just a tool to get your marketing message out - it's a tool to communicate and share with other people.

So, before you use a Social Media hammer to try and screw in a marketing brad on the network of your choice, take a deep breath and repeat after me: It's Just a Tool.

Because Social Media has never been about the technology - it has always been about the relationships.
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