Don’t be fooled by the all time high of Social Media Hype.  Coming from the tech world of Solution Based Selling I can see how easy it is to rush into using Social Media platforms before strategically building a Digital Strategy (aka Shiny Object Syndrome). Of course you need a Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr page for your company … right? I get it.. you might assume that by jumping on the Social Media bandwagon you will drive a good amount of traffic to your site… That’s not realistic unless you put a strategy in place first.  SXSW Interactive and Blogworld opened some eyes to a new breed of “Social Media Agencies” and “Social Media Experts” who primarily speak and consult about what they are doing for clients on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.  Typically these “Experts” have a Tech, PR, or traditional marketing background which led me to the question a few things… Have these “Experts” ever run a successful business before? Do they even understand fundamental business processes? It seems so often that “Social Media People” talk up the Social Media Fluff but lack a understanding in key business principles and objectives.  Our Digital and Social Strategy always starts with Forrester’s POST Methodology.

P is People. Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you’re reaching out business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Forrester has great  data to help with this, but you can make some estimates on your own. Just don’t start without thinking about it.

O is objectives. Pick one. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your best customers to evangelize others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology. Then figure out how you will measure it.

S is Strategy. Strategy here means figuring out what will be different after you’re done. Do you want a closer, two-way relationship with your best customers? Do you want to get people talking about your products? Do you want a permanent focus group for testing product ideas and generating new ones? Imagine you succeed. How will things be different afterwards? Imagine the endpoint and you’ll know where to begin.

T is Technology. A community. A wiki. A blog or a hundred blogs. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide with confidence.

(Thanks to Jeff Bernoff of Forrester’s Groundswell Blog)

I tend surround myself with business and thought leaders, along with a great mix of Digital Strategy Rockstars. These business leaders and Rockstars leverage Social Media to help grow both their business and their clients businesses.  At the same time I run into daily “Social Media People” that talk all about “Social Media Stuff” and don’t understand business principles behind their message. So before you go out and build a Facebook fan page, YouTube channel, or Twitter account, make sure you know where your audience is and have clear defined objectives. That way when you start diving into your strategy you be able to leverage the right technology to help your business grow.