Social Media: It’s Not About the Tools

Are you spending too much time “doing social media”? Or are the “gurus” telling you that you need to spend even more time on social media?

Have you found yourself asking “why???!”

It’s easy to get caught up in creating the perfect website, a dazzling Facebook page, Twitter updates, YouTube videos – and the list goes on. But the reality is that these are just tools; without a clear digital strategy tied to a sustainable business model, all the tools in the world won’t help you reach your business goals.

So, how do we ween ourselves off our addiction to social media tools, and focus on what really matters – meeting our business goals?

First, understand that a tool is just a tool. It’s what you DO with it that makes the difference. Pounding a nail with a hammer works pretty well; pounding it with a sheet of sandpaper, not so much.

Next, clarify your business goals. What are you trying to achieve for your business?  Don’t even think about social media at this point – you want to first get crystal clear on where you’re trying to take your business, and why.

Many business owners are pretty clear about goals – after all, they wouldn’t be in business long without this. But the ‘why’ part, that’s harder to articulate. Are you simply trying to save up for retirement? Educate people about organic gardening techniques? Breed the best hosta cultivar? Develop your reputation as a forward-thinking landscape architect? Tap into your passion, whether it’s education, plant breeding, or leading-edge design. Let that come through in your online interactions.

While your overall business strategy will be concerned with the overall purpose and scope of the business to meet stakeholder needs and expectations (i.e., your “mission statement”), a digital strategy is focused on the resources, processes, people, and structure needed to deliver against the larger business strategy.  And one important part of that is the tools (resources) you’ll need.

Choose the tools that will help you achieve your goals. Those tools don’t need to be the latest and greatest – a simple hand tool will often do the job as well as an amped up, multi-feature, takes-3-months-to-learn-how-to-use-it power tool. Tools (especially power tools) only end up getting you in trouble unless you know what you’re doing with them (who wants to lose a finger in a table saw?!).

Unfortunately, people tend to blame the tool when things don’t turn out quite how they’d hoped, when the real culprit is a lack of clarity around business goals and the absence of a digital strategy.

A few months ago, I read a thought-provoking article on Jay Baer’s site, Convince and Convert, about placing a six-month moratorium on our use of social media tools. I think if I suggested a 6 month moratorium to my clients they’d either

  1. go ballistic (“How can we NOT do all of this stuff??!”) or
  2. breathe a sigh of relief (“Thank you, thank you! Now we can finally FOCUS on getting it right!”).

Which camp do you fall into?


  1. Morris May on December 23, 2011 at 3:39 am

    To take the analogies one step further…. when people blame the tool, it is similar to finding a hammer for the nail but not having the skill to use it properly. If you do not have the skills, then get in a professional!

    Beware of the cowboys, though. Many speak with forked tongues, but if you do not think they ‘get’ your business then they are unlikely to deliver you any meaningful results

    • Monica Hemingway on December 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      That’s the trick, isn’t it? Finding the right professional. The wrong one will end up smashing your thumb with that hammer, rather than driving in the nail! If you can, find a professional who specializes in your industry – or at least has a strong business foundation that can be applied to your industry or business.

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