Don’t focus on Social Media, focus on shareable ideas

What exactly is “social media?” By one definition, it is “the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” True, but what if I share a graphic novel with a friend, and over lunch we have a discussion about it? Perhaps we haven’t fulfilled the first part, but we’ve certainly generated interactive dialogue.

So the question is, are you more worried about the former or the latter? If you’re focused on web-based and mobile technologies, here’s what you’re going to end up doing:

  • Measuring how many Facebook “likes” your status update received
  • Checking your Twitter followers
  • Seeing how many people circled you in Google+
  • Counting how many Foursquare badges you have

Now here’s my question: What do those have to do with your brand? Unless you’re in the selling Google+ circles or Facebook Likes business, probably nothing.

But what about the other half of that definition? The interactive dialogue part. That has plenty to do with your brand. If you’re interested in developing that, then you are interested in fostering:

  • Product reviews
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Heated debate
  • Recommendations

These are softer metrics. Qualitative metrics rather than the merely quantitative. These support opinion, passion and preference – things that are shareable. So what are you doing to generate those? When you run promotions to get people to “like” you on Facebook, you’re not generating shareable ideas.  When you offer a 10% discount just for checking in on Foursquare, you’re not generating shareable ideas.  Instead, try something like this:

  • Post something provocative on your Facebook page, and give a prize to the comment that receives the most “likes”
  • Create a hashtag on Twitter and reward everyone who uses it with a coupon
  • Got a product on Amazon? Challenge your customers to write a review in haiku format
  • Own a restaurant? Offer to ut the best Yelp review on your menu
  • Reward people on quora.com with the highest rated responses to a question in your industry with an opportunity to write a guest post on your blog

You could probably think of a dozen more. The point is, these all create shareable content that is relevant to your business. But more importantly, don’t become fixated on the platform. Create a print publication or a physical badge instead of a digital one. Reward people with content that can be shared in more intimate, personal ways, not just via a Twitter blast.