What will it be next month?

So now it’s Pinterest — what will it be next month? When a colleague of mine suggested DDB had better get on the latest social sharing platform, I groaned. Sure, it’s cool and it lives up to its promise to “let you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web,” but I asked myself: How different is it? What role does it play in our communications? And if we commit to it, can we consistently support it?
Marketers are clearly overwhelmed by the proliferation of sites and cool applications now available to them. At DDB, we evaluate each and every one with basic criteria, but add on another layer of scrutiny given what we do for a living — advising clients on communications and developing the creative ideas that flow back and forth on these platforms.

Marketers need to use social media rather than be used by it. Social truly is a form of publishing, so we need to be content nurturers, creators and editors. But once you have that valuable piece of content, where do you place it?
Unsurprisingly, our agency is on Twitter and LinkedIn, has a blog on our website, and has our own channel on YouTube. We deliberately decided against having a global Facebook page, as it would duplicate the content we diligently keep current on our website. Alternatively we leverage Facebook on a local level for specific campaigns to highlight our work and for recruiting. In the case of LinkedIn, we are in the process of opening that up to anyone who wishes to join the DDB group and we tailor our content to recruiting top talent because that is what that site is geared towards. We share a newsletter featuring cool ideas via Tumblr.
But now I’m struggling with Pinterest. I like that Twitter gives you the ability to share images; yet I know Pinterest archives them neatly. So how do marketers evaluate where we play and where we stay?

First we need to look at our content. What do we have that is unique to share? Does it support our positioning? Is it an interesting point of view? Is it provocative and does it make one think?
Influence in communications is the currency of one’s ideas. With the proliferation of online channels, we have all been caught up in the vehicles of communication while losing sight of substance. Content should drive communications. How many of you feel compelled to share for the sake of sharing just because you’re on a social media site? All those who recognized themselves are probably not sharing truly unique or quality content.
Marketers need to determine who wants or needs our content. People who find your content interesting and relevant are active in sharing, so they will help spread your message. Consumers who need your expertise or services will seek out your content. Brand teams, who share their thinking at the right time with the right people, will prove themselves to be potential partners. Sure, communications should also be geared toward awareness, recruiting and demonstrating to employees that they’re working for a winning brand/company, etc. However, communications are also a requisite when it comes to reassuring your existing consumers/clients, and prospective ones, that you are the expert.
After determining who wants or needs our content, we identify the channels they use and enjoy for communicating— and these run the gamut. This means we must make decisions about where best to expend our finite resources for the biggest return. Which brings me back to the opening question: If that channel is now Pinterest, what will it be next month? No one really knows, but it is important to recognize that no individual or company can be in all the right places at exactly the right time.
While this proliferation demands ever-increasing resources to support every site and application, there is also the issue of diminishing return, given the overlap and benefits provided by each. I know there are social media aggregators out there, but none can keep up. I would love to be able to prepare a piece of content and hit one button to convert it to fit the format and purpose of all these social sites.

However, the fact of the matter is there will always be a new Pinterest, and each innovative platform will have to be vetted for relevance and value. My advice is not to get too tangled up in the technology. Instead, focus on your unique content; who wants or needs that; and where they communicate it. This should engender a communications plan that is both effective and efficient.
Try the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time developing cool content. Dedicate the other 20% to getting it out there. If the content is of quality it will take on a life of its own. We see this at DDB in our blogs, papers and other communications — real thought leadership shared freely takes off regardless of the platform on which it is placed.
Now if I can only figure out this Pinterest thing.

Jeff Swystun is chief communications officer at DDB Worldwide.

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