Three events in the last week have demonstrated that Social Media has been raised the the status of utility. Like your phone, electricity and water – Social Media is an essential part of the daily routine of an ever increasing number of people.

From The Royal Wedding to the tornadoes in the US South to the death of Osama Bin Laden – Social Media has become the message. New breaks on Twitter. People react, share, celebrate or mourn on Facebook. And we all log on to You Tube to see it for real.

The days of gathering around the radio or waiting for the newspaper are gone. We not only get instant information – we can respond and react in real time. We are now part of the process.

If the events of the last week do not convince the laggards in the business and non-profit worlds of the need to make Social Media a part of their communications strategy – then nothing will. Social Media is now a reflexive part of our culture. And, with each new event it becomes a more ingrained habit.

The take-away from the last week is this – we use Social Media for ourselves. It is about what we want to know and want to say. Make no mistake – we are in control of the messages. This means that as a communicator or marketer you have to pay attention like never before. You have to find a way to make what you are all about relevant to me. Relevancy is a relative term and you will never be all things to all people. The point here is to think like your audience. What interests them? What are they responding to? What are they talking about?

I’m not saying you piggy-back on the issue-of-the-moment. That’s lunacy. What you do need to do is find your voice – that core representation of what you stand for – and create messages that resonate. That’s a jargon-y way of saying – tell me who you are or what you do in the context of why I should care.

That’s how you use Social Media effectively.

That said, do not get blinded by all this traffic into thinking that Social Media is the only way to communicate. It is A new marketing tool. It is not THE marketing tool. With all the social buzz created by last week’s events people still flock to their TV or listen to their radio to find out more information. As I said earlier – Social Media is a utility. It is not the only utility.

What vexes many businesses and non-profits abut this new tool is that they do not understand the rules. For decades, marketing has been a one way street. Develop a message and broadcast it to the masses. Tell them what you want them to believe and hope they are swayed. It is a system that continues to thrive and – for the most part – continues to work.

Social Media is the added spice that makes your communications and marketing strategies sparkle. Yes, it allows you to deepen your message, establish a relationship with your customers or donors and humanizes your brand.

Blah, blah, blah….

Social Media is where the fish are (or, if you’re a fan of The Deadliest Catch – where the crabs are). You need to be there because that’s where all the cool kids are.

It is time to jump in….just make sure you have a plan.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist