How do you go to market with Social Media?

Recently I was asked to weigh in on a proposed technology solution. The "solution" was presented as being able to allow my friend to "get their message out there".

There were video examples which showed other people "successfully" promoting their product or service with this publishing tool. In fact the technology vendor presented itself as leader in its category. Does this sound familiar, have you been offered such a tool?

Often people I know talk about Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Constant Contact and other message distribution tools in such a manner.  However after they embrace these tools, these people often report to me dissatisfaction with their results. I am often asked to help at this point.

I hear, "I have been doing email, but now I'm  going to do Constant Contact..." or "I going to start using Twitter to share with my team" or even "I'm going to do a series of webinars that with educate my clients on...".

All too often these social media campaigns miss their mark, as the marketing executive or business owner fails to see the point of social media. Social media is not some magic pill that magically allows people to go to market better than tradition broadcast or print media. Instead it is the extension of traditional media into the hands of the social masses.

Instead of monetarizing the marketplace with pure sales ROI (I spent $5,000 last month and sold 10 cars. Thus I had a $500 traditional broadcast expense to sell each of these cars); social media allow you create your own social currency which has trading value in real dollars.

As long as you can make a profit from one form of social media, you can go on and publish in the next form. But here is the rub; your social community has only so much time and money to contribute to your message.  If you deplete your social capital too quickly your social community or audience can not afford to absorb more of your message. Their attention moved on to the next message and you are done until it is your turn to re-engage with your audience.

So the challenge is to compel your audience to absorb your message in very light ways until they rely on you for more of their attention. So how do we do this? The first thing we quickly learn about social media is that different age groups express their attention in different ways. An older person is more likely to read a newspaper or even a telephone book. A younger person is more likely to shoot you in their video game.

Both age groups may listen to you in their car, but the  younger person might search your archive of images. So if different ages require you to offer your message in different ways, how do you manage it all? After all, different media require different message blocks.

These copy or image blocks are expensive to create, and difficult to store. How do you make a profit with so many unique offerings that social media requires? That is where many businesses falter. They find it harder and more expensive to create adequate unique messaging to make a profit.

What they do not realize is that their lack of profit is not because they could not produce enough unique content that could be sold for a profit, but rather that the value of their social currency had not yet been monetarized. It means the business has not yet found its market or it has not allowed its audience to be sufficiently exposed to the message of its brand.

The point here is that businesses often stop, when they need to keep going. They need to simplify their message, and turn up the bandwidth. Usually it means turn down the volume -- and whisper better -- in order to raise the number and value of their social connections.

So if going to market with social media is so complex and requires so many varied resources, how can anyone make a profit? In fact most companies do not make a profit with social media. Only a few do. And the few that do stand as a beacon for the rest that tread water in social media.

So how do you stand out and still make a profit? Here there is good news. If you do everything well, you will win. The problem is, it is hard to do everything well. After all we are mortals, and we have severe limits to being efficient, especially in new technologies. How do we break through and develop a profitable business model with social media.

One key is to understand that successful social media is a collection of messages. Like a school of fish they are more sustainable than isolated  fish. Each fish in a school is slightly different (like the varied social media tools) but they all contain the same unique brand that allows them to swim together as a distinct group.  The question becomes which social media tools mirror your brand, and how to be match your message with each distinct social media channel.

The key is to match the message with the appropriate social media tool to get your product to market. The channels are virtually unlimited but the message and approach must be appropriately crafted for each audience. Management must sign on and lead from the top (even if only to provide consistency to the brand) and it must be willing to make the long-term commitment of trial and error and constant refinement.

That's what I told my friend. What would you tell him?

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