Social Strategy MAPS: How to choose what platforms to spend your time on

Brian Solis' latest version of the Conversation Prism lists more than 250 social sites in widespread use today. With all that choice, how on earth do you choose where to be, especially when every day it seems a new site pops up? All, some, one, none?

At the iMedia Conference Saturday, I presented on how you can cut through the hype and make strategic decisions about what tools fit with your organization's audience, purpose, message and resources so you can manage social media—and not let it manage you.

If you weren't at the Conference, or you were but couldn't make it to my breakout session, here's the Prezi. There's not a lot of text in it, so I'll be fleshing it out on my blog over the next few weeks. However, for now, a brief outline and explanation (why is there a trashcan on those blog logos?) is below, too. 

M is for Medium/Message

Marshall McLuhan said “The medium is the message.” It’s never been truer for social media. It’s impossible to discuss one without the other. 

The first thing you need to do is learn what’s out there for mediums. It might seem counterintuitive to blow open the field when what we’re trying to do is narrow it. However, every good strategy starts with research. 

Brian Solis created and has been updating the conversation prism for several years now, and it’s a great place to start. Each of these spokes is a broader category of social media type. You’ll probably see a few logos you recognize. Use those to make some generalizations about others in the same spoke. 

I mentioned we need to think about Medium and Message integrally. That’s because each of these is best at certain types of messages and, like every technology, each has limitations that we need to consider. When it comes to what things are best at, we’re talking about what performs best on each channel—what is most likely to lead to engagement. 

How to keep up

Ssubscribe to blogs so you can at least scan the headlines for changes to old tools, new tools coming into vogue, and get tips and tricks for using them. However, here's my pro tip: If you don’t have time to read the day’s posts, delete them. If a tool or change is important enough, it will be there tomorrow, too. 

A is for Audience

You need to understand the demographics, psychographics and technographics of your target audience. When we’re talking demographics, we’re talking about the where and when they are online. Psychographics are the beliefs, values, needs and wants. Technographics are six overlapping categories of social media participation. The term was coined by Forrester Research. They have a great online tool that lets you see how your audience’s demographics measures up. 

One of the best ways to do encapsulate all this info is to create a persona. This puts a face on your audience. Since the key thing about social media is the “social” thing, pretending that you’re talking with a real person as you plan your messages will aid in your overall effectiveness.

Once you know where your audience is and what they’re like, you can start to make decisions about which tools overlap with the tools you might have started thinking about in “M.” Remember that your audience doesn’t think about you nearly as often as you do. When you think about their needs, look beyond yourself and think about them in general. 

P is for Purpose 

What are your business goals? Your communication objectives? Your issues? Solis’s spectrum can help explore areas in your plan where you might not have seen opportunities for social support. You'll also need tools for monitoring, issues and content management, and measurement. 

And, if you need to "tell your story" you'll need a blog (this is the only time I tell you which tool to use). 

S is for Scope 

By now, you should have a list of possible places you should be, and why. You're looking for the most overlap between what you need, what your audience wants, and what the mediums are good at.

Now, narrow the list further by taking into account your resources: money, time, overall schedule and knowledge. 

Think about opportunities for aggregation/time-saving. 

Finally, think in terms of a holistic content strategy: rather than “I have to post to Facebook. And I have to tweet. And I have to blog. And I have an e-Newsletter to put out. And I have to pin something ... " look for ways to re-use content you're already generating, in multiple places—but tailor your posts for each platform. People really don't like hashtags on Facebook, and it's almost never cool to send people to Facebook from Twitter. 

(For example, I was at this conference today, and I presented a couple breakout sessions. So I put it on my blog, and then I tweeted about it. I'll also post links to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., right from Hootsuite. And, I shared the presentation on Prezi, which I embedded above. See how much mileage I got out of the effort of preparing the session?)

Let me know if this helps you with your platform selection in the comments.