Put Your Social Communications on a Diet

by Brian Kotlyar 21 Jul 2010 Blog Post

The abundance of opportunities to communicate in social media can be the medium’s greatest curse. Abundance means brands don’t consider their actions the way they do elsewhere where a scarcity demands a clear justification for participation. The result? Low-effort, but low-value communications that are a lot like white bread: cheap, easy and not particularly good for you. The fact is that brands can do better. They can eat whole wheat (even if it doesn’t taste as good).

The key to changing a social media diet is creating structure. Structure comes in the form of a clearly defined charter for every social channel. The elements of a charter will vary, but items like channel purpose, tone, content schedule and measurement should be addressed at a minimum.

Photo by Emily Carlin

These charters in turn govern every communication occurring on the channel. If a message or activity doesn’t conform to the charter – then don’t do it. To some observers this is a kill-joy perspective, but let’s face facts here: even a brand’s lighthearted messaging should have a clearly stated internal purpose. Brands are not involved with social media by mistake or just for fun. Companies are in the medium to accomplish something and if they can’t define what that is, then things have gone awry somewhere.

The benefits of social charters emerge quickly. When someone from product marketing wants to promote the latest widget in a social channel it is easy to evaluate whether it is white or whole wheat: does it fit the charter of an existing channel? If not, does it merit creating a new one? Does the messaging simply need to be reworked? Does it belong in traditional media instead? Initiatives are quickly whittled down from nice-to-haves to must-haves.

In the end, a true social business eats right. So ask yourself: was your last post white bread or whole wheat?

  • http://davidmastronardi.wordpress.com David Mastronardi

    Brian – thanks for discussing this topic. What would you say to a company who wants to communicate through all the channels in which they believe their customers participate? It sounds like a good idea, but at some point won’t the company run into the problem of abundance you mention in your post?

    Sounds like you’d suggest for the the company to focus on a few key channels… What about shifting the conversation to a company site or community?

    • Brian Kotlyar

      Hi David,

      I would say that there is a scaling issue inherent in participating in every last place that your customers are. It usually makes sense to set specific internal and external expectations for your brand presence in certain social places (with some kind of charter) and live up to that expectation there.

      At the same time aggressive listening can alert you to the emergence of additional channels and conversations that are occurring. For those cases it is typically best to define policy around what is worth responding to, what is not worth responding to and how best to complement those conversations with your defined channel presences.

      Thanks for the comment!

      - Brian

  • sherri

    Brian – love the post! Completely agree. Brands/companies need to know why they are doing what they are doing with a goal in mind to direct their efforts. Clarity and focus.