Technology is not a strategy, it's a tool – part 2

A couple weeks ago I blogged about how people often confuse using technology as a tool with using technology as part of a broader strategy. While that post focused on the objectives of news organisations in using UGC, I thought it might be useful to write a short follow-up post about strategies.

It’s very simple. Often, I find that people will say their strategy will be to ‘use Twitter’ or ‘use Facebook’ or ‘use Flickr’. They are then surprised (or, for the sceptics, vindicated) when they ‘get no results’.

The following is a simple list of translations from tools to typical strategies:

Tool Sample strategies
Twitter Follow people in your ‘market’; tweet useful information; monitor searches on key terms in your field; respond to relevant people with @ messages; use relevant hashtags; retweet anything useful to your followers, or anything that might help users you need to build relationships with
Flickr Upload photos regularly; comment constructively on other users’ photos; participate constructively in Flickr forums and pools.
Blogs Post useful content (you might have a particular strategy around the type of content, e.g. linkbait, evergreen content, etc. – this obviously applies to Twitter, Flickr, etc. too); link to other blogs in your field; post constructive comments on other blogs in your field; link your blog presence to presences elsewhere on social media

Of course, as detailed in that previous post, the tools should come after the strategies, and the strategy should come after the objective, but I thought this might be a useful way to clearly communicate what you really want when you ask for a ‘social media strategy’.

I’ve only mentioned 3 tools, because after that you get the idea. If you can add any other strategies for these or other tools, I’ll happily add them in (I’d love to hear them too).

UPDATE: This process in action with an MA TV and Interactive Content group.

UPDATE: This post takes a similar angle on so-called social media strategies and the ‘tick-box’ syndrome.

UPDATE: Below is a very useful diagram on Twitter strategy from Ogilvy PR:

Twitter strategy

Thanks to Jashpal Mall, whose conversation sparked this post.


12 thoughts on “Technology is not a strategy, it's a tool – part 2

  1. Andre van Loon

    ‘Useful content’, as you say re: the strategy for blogging, I interpret to mean being valuable to others. I would go a bit further in the description of the strategy to give more emphasis to the audience.

    Publishers should aspire to know their audiences with a great deal of accuracy. What is published is usually much more likely to be successful in terms of eyeballs engaged if clearly targeted. Being useful will only work if your audience desires such content. Being entertaining, educative and informative (like the BBC) are other ones. I understand that you probably meant this with your description, but I would say that unpacking the description results in a more nuanced picture.

    There are frequent observations that the new media world has led to a fragmentation, or, less negatively, a diversification, of audiences. I would argue that this is principally due to a growth in audience tastes, before, though of course enabled, by a growth in media outlets.

    I react on the whole negatively to free-and-easy blogs which give space to disconnected observations etc. (though there’s probably an audience for that as well) What I prefer are self-aware, outward-looking (in the sense of addressing an audience) blogs that consider readers’ tastes in what they communicate. Such consideration should help to define strategy.

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  3. Jmac

    Good post

    it’s something I have to go thru on a weekly basis…. So many companies confuse the two

    in fact, most of the products we sell in (from my consultancy arm this fluid world – start with a definition of strategy from understanding

    without this, the disasters we see in platform abuse from confusion, become common-place

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  6. Charles Borwick

    I don’t think you can separate journalism from tools/technology, from politics, from culture, from revenue sources or from community.

    You have to consider them all in the delivery of a message and you need to think about them all at once. The ability to represent things visually has a huge impact on what we say, even how we think.

    So in my mind technology is not just a tool, it is part of the message, part of the thought process.

    I think it would be interesting to look at how different journalists use different tools and see the connection between the kind of tools they use and the message the deliver. In many cases, the message is just a tool for great delivery or great delivery makes the message of sufficient interest to get it noticed.

    Perhaps the best example of this is Hans Rosling at TED. His relatively simple use of visualization tools made what a message that would have received virtually no interest become one of the most watched TED videos. The impact was to clear up a misconception about 3rd world countries that would have otherwise remained sidelined in the world of “boring”.

    1. Paul Bradshaw

      Agreed. One thing I find interesting about technology is how it changes how you communicate. Blogging has changed my journalism; Seesmic made me learn new ways to communicate; Audioboo likewise. Each time you have to revisit the assumptions you make about communication in a new context.

  7. Steven Adams

    Great post. I especially liked the table that outlined the different social media tools. As a journalism student, I find the possibilities in the field exciting but also sometimes overwhelming. This blog is helpful in clearly presenting the possibilities for journalism in the future.

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