I love the ocean, the rhythm of the tide, the smell of the salt air, the sound of the waves lapping on the side of a boat or on a beach. There are new discoveries to be made as the tide goes out. Sea glass. Driftwood. Seaweed. Sometimes there are little pools of water where you can make the castle of your dreams until the tide comes back in. Then all of your creations are washed away until the tide goes and you can explore and create all over again.
I think of the ebb and flow of the ocean every time I read a post about how a new technology has replaced an old one (blogs vs lifestreaming) or who is best equipped to explain the brave new world of media (PR agency vs traditional agency). Technologies come and go. The “hot” ideas come and go, always to be replaced by the next big thing. Yet at the same time we individually and collectively try to sort through the noise to find the best path to our goals without getting distracted along the way. Social Media introduces a lot of shiny sea glass that makes it easy to be distracted and it is up to us to understand when to pick it up and when to keep on walking.
How do you decide what to keep and what to leave behind. It all starts with your goals. Do you want a better job? Does your company want to exceed revenue/profit guidance to the Street? Does your organization want to increase membership? You then move on to determine your strategy to achieve these goals, the tactics you will employ, the budget and resources necessary and then you execute the plan. Basic concepts that are hard to execute. Now add in Social Media, which for a lot of folks causes a major case of agita. “How do I use these social networks? Which I should I use? I know, I will use as many as I can. Maybe I should just use Facebook and call it a day. Maybe I should ask someone.” Sound familiar?
I think we make the process far more complicated than it needs to be. I encourage you to internalize the idea that there is no one right approach or shiny tool when it comes to social media. You will try a lot of ideas, fail some of the time, learn from your mistakes and move on. The next iteration will be much better because you will be measuring your progress along the way (and the measurement is meaningful and tied to your organization top level goals). When it comes to deciding which path to take, by all means take the counsel of someone you trust. But I encourage you to become educated about the potential of social media. Read books like Groundswell, Trust Agents or Six Pixels of Separation. Learn from practitioners like CC Chapman, Jason Falls, Jeremiah Owyang, David Armano or Valeria Maltoni. Go to conferences like the Inbound Marketing Summit (follow on Twitter #IMS09) or events put on by Marketing Profs and Marketing Sherpa.
I am fortunate to be able to attend IMS09 over the next two days and I know I will have a lot to share in the coming weeks. For now, expand you understanding of Social Media and experiment. You will be happy you did.