Earlier (before taking some time off to turn the geezerly age of 36) I had started a series of blog posts dealing with the idea of using the elements of social media to create a plan that is unique to your company’s needs. One of the keys to designing a solid social media plan (as well as a great dinner) is figuring out what you want to base your social media efforts around (the entrées) and what social media tools will serve an ancillary purpose (the appetizers).
You or your company’s needs will differ, which is why you need to plan before you start a social media (or any communications) program. Too often there are manager, CEOs, CCOs, etc. who want to jump into a new communications model because they’ve heard about it in PR Week, or Fortune/Forbes/Inc., or they are solidly rooted in PR from the past. Press releases printed with carbon paper were good enough for them, and damn it they should be good enough for you.
Look again at the example of Iron Chef (where the idea for this came from). In Iron Chef, each chef is given the secret ingredient just before the competition begins, and has to come up with a number of dishes
While you look at the myriad kinds of social media available to you or your company, from blogging to podcasting, YouTube to Facebook and MySpace and Flickr and beyond, you need to look as each of these as part of that secret ingredient from Iron Chef. Then start asking some questions
What tools should be your main focus? What do you want to devote a lot of your time and effort to? Blogging? Podcasting? These are the equivalent of your entrees. When you consider what to focus most of your time on, think about who you’re trying to communicate to. Are you trying to create your own online media outlet? Then you might want to center around a blog and use Flickr for images and YouTube for your videos. If you’re a professional photographer and haven’t set up a Flickr account to show off your work, what are you waiting for??
Are you trying to reach out to younger people, maybe you’re a school or a video game maker. While MySpace has lost much of its luster in recent years, there are still over 70 million people on the social network. (and while Friendster is kind of a joke at this point, it’s still very big in much of the Asian Pacific Rim countries, do you need to reach that audience)
Then ask yourself, what other social media tools might help you achieve the goal of communicating with your target audience. Maybe you’re not in an industry that needs to use too many pictures – you can still use Flickr to show off community events, or record your yearly shareholders meetings with a podcast. You are limited only by your imagination on how you can use these tools.
In Iron Chef the competitors only have 1 hour to complete all of their dishes. Thankfully, you have more time to develop your plan – but if you haven’t started yet then your competitors have a three dish, five chef advantage on you.