questions4‘How-to’ is a pretty popular topic for Social Media. I Googled some of the big ‘how to’s’ this morning: “How to Blog” – 5.1 billion search results; “How to use Facebook” – almost 8 billion search results; “How to use Twitter” – 6.1 billion search results. That’s billion, with a b.

But before we jump right into ‘how to’, maybe we ought to ask ‘why’ and ‘what’ and ‘to whom’ first. Social Media has swept over us like a tsunami; it has invaded every aspect of our interaction with others and enabled us to converse with the world. And, like a tsunami, it has drowned us in conversation. Social Media has allowed us, each of us, to share our story with the world. It has the power to amplify our little mouse voice into lion’s roar. But now that our voices can be heard, what should we say? To whom should we say it? Why say anything at all?
Unless we answer the why, what and to whom questions first, the ‘how to’ is just going to waste our time. It’s like planning a trip by consulting an automobile maintenance manual. It’s preferable to know where you’re going, who you’re going to visit and what method of transport you’re using first – before you figure out how the engine works.

So let’s get to the Whys, Whats and to Whom’s of Social Media:

Why? – Before jumping into any kind of  effort using Social Media you’ve got to ask, “Why am I doing this? What my purpose for this?” Most of us jump into Facebook and Twitter or launch a blog because we’re ‘supposed to’. Industry gurus advise us to ‘build a platform’ using those three tools as the Holy Grail of being heard. I’m okay with that if I know why up front. I’ve been in publishing for eight years now and in media for four years. I’ve been blogging, off and on, for six years. I didn’t start this blog though, until last week. I didn’t have my ‘Why’ clear in my mind until then. There are four billion conversations floating around in cyberspace at the moment – depressingly few of them are worth listening to; be sure yours has a point.

What? – what tool best suits you? Feel guilty that you’re not ‘Tweeting’ five time a day? Unless you’ve got something worth sharing, in 140 characters of less (we don’t want to know what you ordered at McDonalds), why bother? Some people have a worthwhile 140 character stream of consciousness, some don’t. If you don’t, don’t fake it – we’re not interested. You may be a 500 word Shakespeare. If so, then blogging is for you! You may prefer connect in the billion person family reunion called Facebook – great! The point is that you shouldn’t feel that you have to keep up with every form of Social Media. Go where your message and you fit the best.

Who? – (to whom is the proper English, but it interrupts my ‘W; theme). Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach with your message? Where do they congregate? What Social Media platforms reach them most effectively? LinkedIn is great for business connections and forums, but not the best Social Media platform for sharing recipes. Facebook is more relaxed, sometimes too relaxed. As an author you may be thrilled people ‘Like’ your page, but how does that translate into books sold? In order reach your audience effectively, you’ve got to understand who your audience is, go where they congregate and master the the language spoken there.

Have you asked yourself Why you’re doing this, What the best platform(s) for your message might be and Who you’re trying to reach?

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