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Social Media: Is It A Strategy Or A Magnificent Enabler?

Last year, my marketing department underwent a reorganization, and when my new boss asked if I would lead our social media strategy, it gave me pause.

Is social media a strategy?

As I contemplated this, a random thought went through my subconscious. My uncle, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, was part of a team that routinely flew around the world at supersonic rates. Now he soars through a virtual galaxy at the speed of a keystroke.

Where once his missions entailed ensuring the safety and freedom of the American public, he now deems it his calling to forward any and all intelligence gleaned as he peruses online news sites.

Remember the 1980s Fabergé commercial featuring a woman who told two friends about her shampoo, then those friends told two friends, and so on and so on? She was the precursor to my uncle who, in his retirement, reads and forwards the “news” all day long.

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And, folks, each of his distribution lists is more than 100 strong. That’s right, he has multiple circles, with all things aeronautic routed to his cadre of military cohorts. Is the news religious in nature? Those are sent to family and fellow church members. Only staunch Republicans (and a few Democrats he enjoys teasing) are privy to his tirades on current political happenings. Redneck humor and jokes about the curmudgeonly cartoon character Maxineget the broadest distribution.

What struck me is this: I do the same thing with my social media accounts. I’ll admit that Twitter is a bit of a catch-all, but LinkedIn keeps me in touch with many of my Kellogg School of Management alums.

Facebook is particularly useful to keep me in touch with far-flung friends and family. I’m still experimenting with SlideShare, posting and removing presentations for various charitable endeavors. Google+ is new and my circles look more like polka dots, but give it time and it could be one of my favorites. YouTube? That’s for family, specifically video travelogues my husband and little boy create.

Suddenly, I realized I was on to something here. When it comes to social media, we marketers need to guard against treating all social media as though they were homogenous. Each is a different platform and we should treat them individually. While we may reach different people via each channel, we’ll also reach the same people more than once. So if we cross-post our content automatically to all platforms, our “friends” will skip over our posts with a “been there, done that” look on their face. What’s more, they’ll soon skip all our posts thinking that they’ve already seen the message some other place.

So how do we customize our messages? The best guidance I’ve gleaned is to understand the role each platform plays in your overall marketing strategy. A LinkedIn special-interest group needs more granular information than a Facebook fan. And so on and so on.

No, social media in and of itself is not a strategy, but it can be a magnificent enabler of our marketing strategy, offering countless opportunities to build meaningful relationships. The strongest relationships are built on trust, and we must earn that trust one platform at a time.

Give people the option of how they want to interact with you. Challenge them. Inform them. Entertain them. Above all, treat them as individuals. What an amazing opportunity to personalize our brand via these social outlets.

The messages my uncle sends me are not always relevant or timely or entertaining, but then again, many are. So I read each one.

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