Broadcast This!

Communication ManProfessional communicators everywhere are using social media in their outreach and engagement work.  But increasingly, it is the social part first, and then the media, that differentiates successful communications and marketing.

Access to communication capabilities has never been easier and the plethora of new tools are largely free.  But contrary to the immense buzz around Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and scores of other technology widgets, tools are not what make social media all the rage. Bigger news is a communications paradigm shift, away from broadcast as a means for getting a message out, and toward a more networked model of communication. 


Networked communication relies upon tens, hundreds, thousands, even millions of helpers to get your organization's message to interested listeners.  Cheaper than broadcast, social networks operate as a commons owned by everyone who participates.  Using this new model, your communication reach is as big as the size of your network -- not the height of the transmission tower or heft of the printing press. The game now requires convincing as many people as possible, or at least those that Malcom Gladwell calls connectors, to share the good word.  Relationships play a major role.

But how does one build relationships with others who are willing to speak-up and share your message?  Today's best practices suggest that you:

  1. Reach out in an authentic way;
  2. Maintain a consistent connection with your network;
  3. Demonstrate capacity by delivering value (for free). 

Today's imperatives to tweet and blog, share, and offer free information speak to elements of the relationship-building process.  Because trust comes out of experience with an individual or organization, value increases with each interaction. So repetition, as advertising gurus say, is factor for getting your message heard. But repetition alone is not enough.  (Remember any old and repetitive TV ads that just made you run the other way?)  A demonstration of humanity is also a factor online.  By repeatedly speaking to social networks with the integrity of a friend, organizations may find both that others more readily accept their message and more easily accept their inevitable human fallibilities. Of course, despite the most genuine of human interactions, most individuals are not looking to buy friendship from an organization, so demonstrating the value of products and services is still vitally important.  In an age of free samples, freemiums and the economy of free, traditional customer attitudes have evolved from show-me to give-me.  There is more pressure than ever to demonstrate value by giving something of value away for free.

Social media offers a whole new set of tools designed specifically for network (rather than broadcast) communications. While a traditional media and water-cooler buzz continues to focus on these tools and the breathtaking rate at which they are adopted, savvy communicators are now emphasizing the relationships they build to create highly targeted communication pipelines that will (at least in part) replace the broadcast media of the 20th century.