Social – A Culture, not a tool

Social Media Process v. 1.0

I had a conversation two weeks ago with a colleague who was taking over the social media, marketing and PR responsibilities for a small but growing organization in the consumer products industry.

In this new role, my friend will be moving into a role of responsibility of all social media and engagement aspects for the business.  While he’s excellent at marketing and pretty darn good at PR, he’s not had much experience in the social media space.  Sure…he has a Facebook and LinkedIn account but hasn’t really made much use of them for much more than just keeping in touch with old friends, family and colleagues.

He called me last week to catch up and fill me in on the new role.  After congratulating him (three or four times actually), I asked a question that I always ask in these situations…..what’s your goals for the new role?  Sure…it may be too early to really have a set of goals formed for the new role, but he had time to come up with basic thoughts as should anyone in that same position.  No need set formal goals before understanding the real issues at hand, but its definitely worth having some high level goals in mind, right?

As I knew he would, he told me of some of his plans.  While most were good, a few jumped out at me as being more tactical than strategic, which surprised me a bit…in times like this, its better to think a bit more strategic until you fully understand the new role, people and responsibilities.

What was interesting to me was this: the areas that were more tactically focused where the social media areas of his new role.  On the marketing and PR side, his thoughts were very high level and spot on…on the social side, his thoughts were more focused on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ or ‘what’ of social.

I brought this to his attention.

He took a few seconds to think about my comments and then responded with something that floored me….he said something along the lines of this:

Social Media is just a bunch of tools to get my message in front of my customers…..there’s nothing strategic about it.

I’ll let you ruminate on that one for a bit.


That was my response to his comment too….perhaps it was more like “REALLY????”…but you get the idea.

Social is more than a tool

Thankfully, I know this person quite well and can speak bluntly with/to him.

I told him he was an idiot (I used that word too).

Social is not just another channel to shout your message to the masses. Social is much more than that.

I told him that social is more than just some tools like twitter and Facebook…social is a cultural mind-shift.  Social is something that requires three-way communication between you and your customer (and vice versa) as well as communication between your customers.

Find any case study of a company successfully using social media and you find a social culture. You find people engaged in talking to, listening to and learning from their customers.

I told him to spend a few hours reading Danny Brown, Jason Falls, Brian Solis, Mitch Joel and Valeria Maltoni. I told him to go pick up some of the great social books like Six Pixels of Separation (amazon affiliate link) by Mitch Joel, Trust Agents (amazon affiliate link) by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (amazon affiliate link) by David Meerman Scott.

I found myself talking for a few more minutes about social not being a tool and realized I hadn’t really given him a chance to respond. His repsonse was a good one….he wanted to take some time to think about the topic and read a few of the above blogs, etc.

I received a call from him yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to hear him say:

You were right…I’ve got a lot to learn about social media.  I realized social is a culture, not a tool.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂