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A Sample Social Media Toolkit

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There are countless ways to get into the game with Social Media, but sometimes we get hung up on evaluating tools and thinking about which are the best for the job.

We go further into thinking about the variety of tools and why we'd use which ones for what, and then, next thing you know, the day's over and nothing's been done.

Here are a few sample tools and what they can be used for, and from there, maybe some new ideas will spread.

Quick note: I know and use and admire and communicate with lots of providers of these tools. For every one of these categories, I could probably name between four and sixteen more people. If I didn't list you, I probably still love you. Maybe that will be a post for another time: a big fat list of resources.

The Quick List


For the sake of summary, let's list out what's in our toolkit, and why—and then we'll go into detail:

What They All Do

Google Reader and the two search tools make it easy for you to set up a quick network of searches on topics, brands, company names, and whatever else you want to follow in your space. The "Shared Items" feature and the email to others feature makes this a great way to share interesting articles with others, by the way.

When I say "home base" blog, I mean that in most cases making your main Web site a blog is preferable to something static. Why? Because it hints at recurring content. It fills search engines with things to think about.

A "scratch" blog might be one that you don't even publish to the outside world; the beauty of Tumblr is that you can blurt short text, audio, video, and other things onto the site. I keep a few around for a few different purposes: one for private notes, and one for multimedia posts.

I use FeedBurner to improve the quality of my RSS feeds, to give people more options to subscribe to my posts, and for some extra functionality.

Utterz is a simple tool you can use from any mobile device (the barrier to entry is whether it has the #2), and post audio, text, photos, or video. Qik does live video streaming, if your phone supports making movies.

Twitter allows for one-to-many messaging from multiple points (Web, IM, third-party app, or mobile device). It's also good for presence, and sharing quick status information.

Facebook actually does lots of things and is a full-featured social network, but at the baseline, you can fill out a personal profile with lots of information about you, and links back to your main site and/or your blog, and it will do a great job of helping people find you. Other features exist, including groups and several third-party applications. There's lots to explore there.

LinkedIn is a popular site for posting a summary of your current job role and responsibilities, as well as a work history. There is now a group feature there as well, and you can use this tool extensively to reach out and meet new colleagues in your field and prospective employees; there are all sorts of other uses for such information, if you give it some thought.

I like del.icio.us (pronounced "delicious") for social bookmarking because it means my bookmarks are out on the Web, so I can access them from anywhere. It also means that I can add tags and other metadata to the bookmarks to improve the ways I search for them.

We've used wikis for collaboration projects, such as planning an event (we built PodCamp on a wiki, and it's still running strong!), or sharing status information that might need to be changed by more than one person. There are tons of free wiki software projects out there. I think PBWiki is simple, flexible, and easy enough to share with others. The only tricky thing about explaining wikis to colleagues who aren't up to speed is the name itself. If you just say "collaborative web page" or some such, it's easier.

Google Docs works as a great replacement for sharing word processing and spreadsheet functions. It's free, secure, and makes for less file clutter, as you're sharing a link to a shared, common document instead of sending around various versions. Google Docs also has presentation software, though I haven't had much experience with it just yet.

Instant messaging isn't dead. There are still plenty of great business uses for quick one-to-one conversations. Meebo is a great tool because it lets you bridge several services at once (Desktop apps that do the same thing are Adium for the Mac and Trillian for PC) and chat with people about quick-hit items.

Photo sharing and video hosting can be used in lots of ways. They make for richer interactions, add some dimension to the media you're making with your company, and give you an opportunity to express your story in ways different from straight text.

How You Might Use These Tools

I won't go into every tool, but here is a quick rundown of some tools and how you can use them for business purposes:

  • Listening tools—understand how people react to your organization, follow your competitors' news stories, learn more about things that might affect your business.
  • Blogging—communicate your company's news, discuss the industry as a whole, share information and learning, respond to things you find while listening.
  • Mobile tools and social conversation—status and presence information, visuals from field engineers, audible daily meeting messages.
  • Collaboration and shared documents—project plans, intention documents, status reports, meeting minutes, shared creative projects.
  • Instant messaging—meetings while virtual, backchannel during conference calls, quick integrated conversations.

Personal Use

Lots of these tools are often explained in their typical use as a way to communicate outwards to lots of people; yet, as I explained about "scratch blogs" use, all these great tools are yours to use for yourself—as a creative type looking to capture information on the fly.

Remember that tools have an obvious first use, but sometimes they have a different use when applied to a different kind of problem. Don't lose sight of that option.

What Would You Recommend?

These are all just part of one sample kit. You probably have different kit ideas and different use cases. For instance, what would a mobile journalist want to build? What would an audio producer add in there? How would you take advantage of even more Web tools that aren't exactly media but that you love for different reasons?


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Chris Brogan is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, a new-media marketing agency and events company. He makes media of all kinds at chrisbrogan.com, a blog in the Top 10 of Advertising Age's Power150 and a top 100 blog according to Technorati. Connect directly by emailing blog at chrisbrogan dot com.

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  • by Cisca Tue Jun 17, 2008 via web

    You hit the nail on MY head with your very first sentence, Chris. Having only recently decided to join the Social Media game, I've been frantically reading about all the available tools and swiftly managed to get myself into a state of paralysis of analysis. You've made it clear enough for me to stop analyzing and start playing. Thank you!

  • by Ruth Seeley Tue Jun 17, 2008 via web

    Nice summary, Chris, and some nice distinctions made between what tools to use for which purposes.

    I think the problem for a lot of folks is that before they even really got up to speed on the social media frontrunners, a bunch of imitators/improvers sprang into existence, and now just sorting out the difference between Twitter and jaiku has become a chore.

    Unfortunately, not all social networking software and tools are equal, even among competing services. I haven't logged in to my zooomr account in a while (partly because the OpenID log-in is so very very cumbersome at the moment, which is annoying since it's supposed to make one's life easier, not harder). It has always struck me as odd that zooomr has focused on geotagging rather than on creating community, as flickr did. It still hasn't added the functionality of groups. And it's interesting that zooomr didn't make it into the Top Five photo sharing sites, according to this poll. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find even a mention of it.

    http://lifehacker.com/395900/five-best-photo-sharing-web-sites

  • by Parker Pearson Fri Jun 20, 2008 via web

    Thank you for such a concise and useful article. You didn't tell me something I already knew, which i appreciate; and you got down to the useful stuff quickly. Very helpful!

  • by maabalto Thu Jul 10, 2008 via web

    This article is a great resource! Thanks for writing it. And to ensure access to it at a later date, I signed up for del.icio.us.

  • by Michael Hollon Fri Jul 18, 2008 via web

    Thanks for the great list of tools. What advice would you offer a do-it-yourself market researcher who is looking to use these tools to generate better consumer insights on all those product and brand evaluations going on with bloggers? Are there any social media monitoring agencies that are particularly appropriate for market research uses? (there are dozens of them out there and I don't know their particular strengths) Thank You

  • by Holly Gunn Thu Jul 24, 2008 via web

    Great ideas Chris! I'm use all of those except Feed Burner and Utterz. At RSA Corp, we created an internal social networking site - ning.com's free platform - for employee collaboration and sharing. Different than a wiki, it allows employees to create profile pages with pictures of their family and pets, favorite videos and short biographies. Each member posts mini-blogs when they find something interesting they want to share or when they just want to chat about current projects with clients. Many employees have created groups (book club) and others have initiated ongoing discussions in the forum.

    It's really given us a great way to get to know each other better, fostering close working relationships and a family-like work environment. Also, it has eased employees into the idea of using a blog. So, now that RSA's corporate blog is being released, people are more receptive to the idea (and even want to help write for it!).

  • by Polly Black Thu Aug 14, 2008 via web

    Great list, Chris. This certainly does help people understand what does what! I would just add that tools are only as good as the job they do for you. So it is really worth spending the time up front to understand two things:

    First: the role social media will play for you in your overall marketing plans, and how it will help you drive your objectives.

    Second: the way your target uses the web - do they read? Do they engage? Do they contribute? Those are key questions to know the answers to in order to use the right tools to apply to communicate with them on their wavelength.

    If you don't invest that time, then it's a hit and miss game.

  • by Sharon Natanblut Sun Sep 28, 2008 via web

    This is one of the first articles I read on social marketing and it really helped me begin to understand how to think about it. I love how you lay out the basic tools and what they each do.
    Have you considered an article that suggests a process for a newcomer to begin using these tools? It's too confusing to try all of them at once. What if you're a small business or an individual and you want to build up a presence online? Should you first use Technorati to identify sites? Then subscribe to sites and use Google Reader to see what others are saying? Is the step after that to start responding on others sites or should you start your own blog using WordPress? Then I see you mention Feedburner? I started my own blog (footinblog.wordpress.com, although I call it "The Blog Chronicle" and I tried to use Feedburner but then WordPress told me that it isn't compatible with Feedburner. Very confusing. Anyway, anything you could do to provide a step-by-step approach to use social media would be so helpful. Thanks very much.
    Sharon (unfortunately my username is toeinblog and i guess it's impossible to change)!

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