When you cook, your tools make a difference. That’s not to say that you need the fanciest, most expensive gadgets to do a good job. Far from it. In fact, a top-notch chef can whip together some truly tasty dishes with the set of kitchen equipment you might find in a college student’s first apartment. In fact, Top Chef has repeatedly demonstrated that their contestants can produce culinary excellence in the woods, in a dorm room, or even with one hand tied behind their backs.Of course, when you have limited equipment choices or capabilities, you will need to work harder and make sacrifices to get a good outcome.
The same is true of social media. Regardless of your expertise or budget, you can participate in and benefit from new media.
In cooking, you might think of entry-level as an Easybake Oven. These much-maligned children’s toys can be used for cooking, though I have not done so myself. My lack of experience seems irrelevant, however, since someone actually created a cookbook on the subject. I kid you not. And Jennifer Iannolo told me on Twitter this morning that she “can work an EasyBake like nobody’s bidness.”
In social media, that’s sort of like dipping your toe in the water by starting to read blogs. When we all first got started in understanding the universe, we may not even have known we were participating in the social media space. In fact, new media can look deceptively like traditional online media — something that contributes to the mainstream adoption of this communications medium.
At the EasyBake Social Media Level, you haven’t really developed any serious approach to monitoring and participating in conversations. You’re pretty much just starting to take it in. Perhaps you have created a Facebook account. Maybe you even bought a Twitter for Dummies kind of book. But you really haven’t decided if this social media thing is actually for you.
At this point, it is mostly about learning and starting to “get it.”
Next, you may graduate to the Hot Plate Social Media toolkit. This is the first time you have actually owned any tools for yourself. Sure they’re cheap and plastic, but they do their job well enough for what you’re trying to accomplish on that single burner in your cramped dorm room or apartment.
This might be where you would start having actual conversations on Twitter, regularly updating your Facebook page, and maybe commenting on others’ blog posts or perhaps starting to dabble with your own. You might even begin to monitor the conversation using something like Google Alerts to follow a few narrow subjects online. It could be that you start using a web site like Techmeme to follow online “memes” of interest. But at this point, your social media toolkit will consist of exclusively free tools.
Now, some people find that they’re perfectly happy with their Hot Plate approach for quite some time. Some would even prefer to eat out every night rather than cook for themselves — you know the type where there’s junk stored in the oven and the fridge has nothing but beer in it? These are folks who may have tried social media once and just didn’t find that it was for them. They would prefer to have colleagues track and participate in social media on their behalf. We can think of this as the Pizza Delivery Social Media crowd.
But perhaps you can’t stand the “Chinese take out every night” approach. Maybe you found your early social media experience to be enjoyable and valuable. In this case, you probably have decided it’s time to step up to something beyond the free tools out there to start to get involved in social media on a more professional basis.
Welcome to the new world of George Foreman Grill Social Media. Sure there’s real cost and definitely some work to go along with it, but doesn’t it feel good to be involved in the conversation, making powerful connections, and hopefully even expanding your personal reputation or business?
This is where you start paying for some of your social media tools. You might consider upgrading to a TypePad account because $10 a month seems like a steal for the added perception, flexibility and ease of use you might have over BlogSpot or one of the other free services. Perhaps you’ll attend a social media “cooking class” (better known as conferences and seminars) to hear some of the experts in the field share their advice. You might even consider attending an “unconference” like Podcamp to build out your network and knowledge. This would also be where you likely have enough coverage to warrant a paid monitoring service like our own CustomScoop (or any of our many worthy competitors, for that matter).
If your social media efforts to this point really pay off, you may find yourself wishing to take your social media cooking to the next level. If you feel like you really want to be the best at your craft — and you have the budget — you will probably decide it is time for Viking Range Social Media.
For those of you who like to cook, you know that Viking (along with Wolf and a few others) has a reputation as being one of the high-end cooking appliances of choice for the talented (or wannabe) home chef.
It’s no different in the communications space. When your efforts grow big enough and there’s enough conversation, you may want to start tracking not just what is being said but also develop robust trend analysis including sentiment scoring and other approaches. This would be where you start cracking out the checkbook for higher-end offerings (including our own BuzzPerception product or the countless other services offered by talented competitors that use technology, humans, or some combination thereof to assess your coverage).
Here, too, you may decide you want to host your own blog for the flexibility that provides. Or maybe you will start up an online magazine (as we did with Media Bullseye). Podcasts or other custom online applications are also a real possibility at this level.
Now that you have made it through the last 1,021 words without falling asleep or getting annoyed, hopefully you have an idea as to the progression that is possible with social media as a communications tool. Of course, some people like to start with a Viking Range before they even know how to boil water. I don’t recommend it, but the great thing about this space is that you can try pretty much anything you want.
Now, if you’re one of those folks who want the home-cooked experience without the work and you have a virtually unlimited budget to do so, you might want to think about Personal Chef Social Media. But, mercifully for us all, that’s a post for another day.
Photo Credit: PearlsOfJannah on Flickr