As a marketing consultant, I tend to observe things critically, find parallels and patterns in everything, to try and make sense of what I see and experience, so I can apply those learnings to client problems. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes, not so much.
This morning, my young son Alex, was playing in the livingroom. At 4, he sort of wanders around the room, and when his eye catches something bright and shiny or something he remembers from yesterday’s play session that was fun, he makes a bee-line for the new toy, dropping whatever he’s got in his hand already. Even though the “old” toy was perfectly captivating just 10 seconds ago, suddenly it’s yesterday’s news and he drops it like its hot in favor of the “new” one.
It dawned on me that some of my clients had exhibited this same behavior regarding their marketing and outreach activities. They were rolling along, sending out e-mail, sending out letters, engaging members or customers with their website, growing steadily, when someone pipes up in a meeting “Hey, why aren’t we on Twitter?” or “Why don’t we have a Facebook page?”
Before you know it, the whole marketing and IT department is discussing profiles, and launching pages and starting accounts and firewalls and policies and a whole host of related and relevant topics, and before long, these items are in place and being used, to what end no one knows. With all this discussion going on, and activity stemming from that discussion, often there is little or no thought given to integrating this new activity into the existing marketing plan, to setting goals and metrics for those new programs to measure their effectiveness at meeting those goals. Without those elements in place, and really solid and well-researched answer to the questions “Why are we doing this, and how is it going to help us achieve our goals, and how will we know it’s working?”, going forward blindly is a recipe for at least needless unproductive activity, at worst brand damage and reputational damage for the company or organization.
Non-profit organizations often have a history of behaving that way, although small to mid-size commercial businesses have been known to do this as well. They look a lot like my son, tossing aside what’s in place, even though it may be working, for the shiny, new, trendy, activity, regardless of it’s efficacy or effectiveness.
The moral of the story is that while some of the new media channels and applications may look exciting and may be experiencing a groundswell of growth and popularity, it doesn’t mean that they are the correct or appropriate types of outreach activity through which to achieve your particular goals. You can spot this type of behavior easily. Simply ask them, “What do you use your Facebook page for?” or “What do you get out of your Twitter account?” It’s not even a matter of cost/benefit analysis, it’s more about aligning the mission of the organization with the tools and public outreach mechanisms you use to achieve the set goals. Twitter can be a nice, real-time market monitor for short term buzz and brand recognition, even customer service monitoring or PR effectiveness, but that’s more about listening than posting. Facebook can be a good way to build community around a product or service, but it has to be used carefully and with some constraints in place to maintain control of the voice and the brand. It may not be appropriate for it to be used to help drive sales or leads.
If you are contemplating using new media tools, treat them and think about them much as you would any other service purchase – assess the needs, THEN go find the best tool for the job. Don’t go looking to add tools when you don’t know what the job is. Even Handy Manny knows to use only the right tool for the right job!
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