Anyone can be a social media expert | The importance of being tactic-neutral

Look past any shiny new toys the schicki micki consultants have to offer and plump for a solid communications strategy.


In this bright new age of the interactive Web, everyday seems to bring with it a new technology or platform designed to connect you, the communications professional, to your publics more quickly and more easily. And, in a perverse and often baffling turn of events, every day brings with it a new technology even more bewildering and confusing than the last.

And the names. Good god, the names. Twitter. Seesmic. Ning. “Movable Type”.

It could be easy to just let it all wash over you and look to hire someone who “gets it”. One of those fellows who you met at a networking event or conference who introduced themselves as a “social/new media expert”.

However, it’s important to realise that while these guys do, indeed, “get” all these cool new communications channels, the good news is that you don’t need their help.

Because all the shiny new toys in the world, without a solid, coherent strategy behind them will just end up as the Emperor’s clothes: you’ll still be naked and unprotected underneath it all.

Because, while new and scary to some communicators, as long as you have a deep, strategic view to communications, these cool new tools should be able to fit seamlessly into your arsenal of existing tactics.

Chatting with a few people over the last couple of weeks has solidified, in my mind, what should be at the forefront of any communications professional’s mind:

Be tactic-neutral

Because, to paraphrase Goldie Looking Chain, “tactics don’t connect with people, strategies do”*.

What the Welsh hip-hoppers are trying to say is that you should be matching your tactics to your audience, as defined by your strategy; not shoehorning tactics into your communications plans because they’re the latest shiny new object.

[EDIT: Josh Bernoff says exactly what I wanted to say, in a much better, much more succinct fashion in a post about an interview with Jackie Huba to promote his, and Charlene Li‘s, new book: Groundswell.]

To ensure your tactical elements are matching up with your target audience, just follow the data. Start with the great technographic data available from Forrester and see if your audience is represented. If you need more validation, why not chat to your friendly comScore representative who should be able to, for a fee, point you in the right direction.

If that doesn’t convince you, why not try focus groups and stakeholder consultations with your audience to make sure that they do, indeed, read blogs, watch YouTube, subscribe to email newsletters or even go online.

Think about it. You wouldn’t recommend in-store or street tasting sessions for an audience that predominantly shops online, so why recommend and email programme for people who never read their email?

The data to validate your tactics is out there, you just need to find it.

The whole point of this post is to remind you that social media, while an increasingly important and popular channel for disseminating your organization’s messages and for engaging your publics, is *just* another channel.

Have fun with it; push the boundaries with it. Just se it sensibly, strategically and don’t get too carried away with it.

*Sometimes I wish I was a better writer so that you wouldn’t have to deal with such laboured puns.


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