For the past long while, I have raged against those questions. To me asking "what?" is simply tactical. It's usually only asked because a competitor is doing something similar or because someone in the c-suite got handed a newspaper article that defined one of the Social Media platforms as the newest media darling and sensation. It's a dangerous route.
Start with "why?"
"Why should we be using Twitter?" "Why should we be on Facebook?" "Why should we be posting videos to YouTube?" When you ask "why?" you start thinking more about the strategy. You start thinking more about how this will tie into your business objectives and help the overall economic value of the organization. "Why?" is the strategy and "what?" is the tactical. If you've been playing along at home on this Blog, apologies for being repetitive, but it hasn't sunk in. eMarketer recently released a news item titled, What Makes Up a Social Marketing Strategy? (June 24th, 2010), which stated that, "52% of social marketers are operating 'without a game plan,'... Further, many that do have a strategy find it doesn't address all their concerns or fit their needs. The most common elements included by companies with a social media communications plan were resource-allocation guidelines for ongoing activities, registration of branded usernames on social sites and research into competitors' use of social media. To be sure, those are all critical components of an effective strategy, but they are only the beginning."
There's a bigger reason why brands and Social Media are having a hard time connecting and few people are talking about it.
Before jumping into Social Media, ask yourself this one hard (and very serious) question: does my brand fit into the culture of these platforms? It's a complex question. It's a cultural thing and sometimes brands think that they do fit when in reality, they're just the old guy standing at the back of the club by the bar waiting for the concert to end so that they can take the kids (who are moshing up front) home. They're not really invited. They're not really welcome. Everyone else there is just tolerating their existence like a necessary evil.
There are ways to engender yourself to these different cultures.
That's where a real Social Media strategy kicks in. When you can break down the brand and define how/why it can develop any semblance of a community within the specific platforms (and don't kid yourself, Blogs are very different from Facebook's culture and Twitter's culture is very different from LinkedIn's). So, in case you were wondering, yes, there is a Blogging culture and it's everything from personal journalizing to sharing information in a non-PR-ish kind of way.
People always want to preserve their culture (and there's nothing wrong with that).
In the end, I would argue that a Blog is not just like every other publishing platform either, because every other publishing platform isn't like any of the others. Think about how we culturally see YouTube versus Twitter. Yes, you can do things within them to change them and tweak them to make them unique or different for your brand, but they each have their own culture (language, audience, vibe, etc...). It's not always easy to define a culture, but once you're engaged in the channel, you can feel it. It's also not wrong (or unfounded) for those who Blog to want to encourage the culture of Blogging to push on and not become homogenized into something "other." Whether we like it or not, we do need these semantics and understanding of these channels and their unique cultures. Otherwise, what's the difference between a blog, newspaper, magazine, book, website, etc...? Afterall, they all just publish content. The difference is in their culture, how they operate and who they appeal to.
What brands are learning is that they can't make that culture bend to their will. They need to work hard to live that culture and become an accepted member of the community - in an authentic way.
Do you think brands are up for this challenge?