It seems to be happening a lot lately. Some colleagues get excited about the idea of using a particular technology (let’s say: a wiki, a blog, or a social networking group) to support a particular comms plan or initiative. Now this is great – I love it that awareness of the social web is spreading. But sometimes enthusiasm about the technology can be misplaced.
Mistaking the technology for the objective
Building the wiki, blog, profile page, community or whatever is not the objective. The objective is something else.
That may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how few people approach social media this way when they’re caught up in the excitement about what the new tools can do. Choosing a technology without a firm idea of what you’re trying to do is one of the fastest ways to fail. Yet even when there is a clear objective, there can be an even bigger misunderstanding.
Mistaking the technology for the task
When someone gets too excited about a piece of technology it often turns out that they expect “doing social media” to be a one-off task ending with a self-sustaining product: a brilliantly popular wiki, a fabulously influential blog, or a many-membered group on Facebook.
But I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. Communicating in the new web is real communication. Like a personal relationship, it takes time to build and commitment to keep it going.
My colleague Dominic put this really well the other day:
“Communication is an activity, not an entity”
He was talking about his own field of internal comms but it applies even more strongly to e-comms. Communicating via social media should be continuous, and …well…social. It’s people connecting, and staying connected.
I’ve just finished reading Groundswell and I like what they’ve got to say about this too:
“A community is like a marriage; it requires constant adjustment to grow and become more rewarding. And if you’re not in it for the long haul, maybe you should think about the ugly endings you’ve seen to marriages that lacked long term effort.”
So it’s the difference between “I do” and “I did”. (Or, “social media is not just for Christmas…”?)
Avoiding these mistakes
The key to avoiding these errors is the very stuff of social media itself. Ask questions. Listen. Talk.
Before building the blog, wiki or whatever I try to get beyond the technology enthusiasm and find out what’s really going on.
I ask just two questions, but one of them twice:
- Who? What groups are you trying to reach? (audience)
- Who? Who will participate from our end? (commitment)
- Why? What are you trying to do? (objective)
Good old-fashioned, technology-shunning questions that work for any communications strategy.
- Social media isn’t the tools
- It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people
- The power of online communities
- 7 stupid social media mistakes
- Social Media for Business – who’s doing it well and how
- Social Media Strategy – The planning stage