Social media isn’t something you add to a website, it’s something you do. When I look back over the social media projects I’ve been involved in over the years, it’s obvious that the key variable upon which success, or failure, is dependent is to what extent to which social media has actually been integrated into the overall editorial proposition. Here’s some examples:
Works: A chat room where the presenter dips in and out of the conversation, reads comments from the chat on air, uses the chat room to actually drive part of the programme works because the effort expended in hosting the chat is well spent.
Doesn’t Work: A stand alone chat room fails because someone with better stuff to do has to sit there and moderate it.
Works: A focused, topical, editorially relevant discussion off the back of a piece of content can add value to that content for participants and non-participants alike.
Doesn’t Work: An open ended discussion space where participants set the agenda, chit-chat about what they want and chit-chat drifts far away from the editorial of the site or page does little, if anything, to add value for non-participants.
Works: When a blogger reads and responds to comments left by readers, and uses the comments to better inform later posts, or where the blogger is able to use comments as a source of information, contacts or content, they’re likely to gain significantly through that participation.
Doesn’t Work: A blog where comments are simply ignored isn’t social media, it’s just media.
Works: A programme related facebook group where production staff, journalists and talent interact with their audience can be useful for gathering ideas, finding contacts and getting people to go on air.
Doesn’t Work: A facebook group that simply tells audience members what they already know or can find out easily – the time and content of the programme.
The only way to "do social media" is to embrace it, not just as something that’s tacked onto the back of a website, but as a method of actually doing whatever it is your business is. Simply adding "interactivity" to a website does little to improve the experience for participants and puts additional strains upon the people who have to look after and manage the spaces you create. But by embracing social media as part of your method for actually doing whatever it is your business to do, you become an authentic part of the user community and your participation, far from being an additional burden, becomes and important part of your process.
I guess it’s just another way of explaining that in order to properly "do social media" you’ve got to start by doing it yourself, and by integrating social media tools and methodologies into your process from the beginning. Be creative about how you do this and you can gain added efficiencies, and new audiences, by turning your processes into content.