The image below (Done by Matt Hamm for the Kyan Blog) captures perfectly the mood of the PR community right now. (To the extent that the "community" can be grouped by mood). Everyone wants to get involved with Social Media. "Let's do Social Media!" is the modern equivalent of "Let's do Lunch!" Hopefully, communicators plan their Social Media participation better than all those lunches we never scheduled. Do communicators understand that Social Media isn't a shortcut?
Communications plans still have to be strategic and tied to business goals. The Social Media tools you choose will end up as part of a mix of mediums you use to connect with the audiences you need to reach.
There's a lot of money to be made right now in social media. PR consultancies are racing to get their experts into the fray so that they can benefit from the Social Media clear cutting. Peter Shankman and Sarah Evans have a great take on social media "experts" and "gurus". The Econsultancy blog has another good take on social media snake oil salesmen.
The more some people push Social Media, though, the less likely I am to buy. The more I hear people urging others to get on the Social Media bandwagon, the more it feels like I'm listening to a used car salesman. "What do I have to do to get you onto Twitter today?"
Here are the five essential questions you should ask:
1) What is the business goal we're trying to accomplish?
2) Who is the audience we need to reach?
3) What do we want the audience to do?
4) What platforms or forums allow us to get that done?
5) How will we know if we're successful?
If Social Media fits into the communications mix, great! Go do it. But if it doesn't, you shouldn't try and force it.
Bottom line? If you don't have a strategic communications strategy first, a Social Media strategy probably won't help much.