Don't Blame the Tool

Photo by Lachlan
08.12.2013By

Photo by Lachlan

Imagine for a moment you are walking through a building that is being renovated. As you walk by, you see a carpenter who is working on a railing for a big staircase, and this carpenter, well, he seems pretty frustrated. He is yelling and cursing at the tool in his hand, which, as you get closer, you can see is a screwdriver. Then you notice something really strange. The carpenter is trying to hammer a nail using the screwdriver. At that point one must wonder, is the screwdriver really to blame?

This scenario may seem extremely far-fetched, but I see similar things happening quite often in the world of social media marketing. You’ll hear a lot of complaints about how Twitter doesn’t work, Facebook Pages stink, Google Plus is a losing proposition, etc. However, the real culprit might be a lack of planning or unrealistic objectives.

What are you after?

No matter what marketing tactic you are considering, the most important step is to consider what you want to achieve. Much as a carpenter will choose tools based on what needs to build, you need to decide what is most important to your organization and then what the best tools are for making that happen. Just as you would not use a screwdriver to hammer a nail, you probably would not want to use Twitter if what you really want is to increase your fundraising significantly over a short period of time. If Twitter fails to deliver, chances are good it is not the tool. The tool is what it is. Was it the best tool to get you where you need to go? That is the ultimate question.

Are you sure it’s not working?

Another common problem is that organizations may express disdain for a marketing tool just based on a gut feeling that “it’s not working.” What you want to be careful of in these instances is that you have solid evidence backing up your claim (this also applies if you feel the tool is working). Before you begin using any marketing tool, no matter what it is, make sure you have a way to measure your success (or lack thereof). You definitely do not want to continue investing in a tool that is not working, nor do you want to pull a tactic that may be working just fine. Be sure you support any action with quality information.

Make Sure Your Marketing Tools are Working Together

Finally, you want to make sure that you are optimizing each marketing tool you use by combining helpful tools that can work well together. A carpenter, for example, does not simply start putting nails into a wall. They use a measuring device and other tools to make sure the surface is even, the lines are straight, and the spacing is right. As you work towards promoting your cause, you can also make sure that different marketing tools are used together to achieve the same goal. For example, instead of just tweeting in a vacuum, perhaps you include your Twitter account in the sign-off information of a print advertisement. Invite people in your e-newsletter to join your Facebook Page. If one of your marketing tactics seems to really be working well, think about ways you can use that tool to help you get started on other channels. Think outside the box.

The next time you feel tempted to talk about how poorly a marketing tactic is performing for you, review some of these pointers. Are you using the tool in the best way possible? Did you have clear objectives before you got started? Are you using other tools to help support your presence on one platform or another? Take a step back and make sure aren’t trying to use a screwdriver to hammer nails.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesrbowe/4131812672/ via Creative Commons

  • Margie,
    This is an excellent post. Lack of understanding in social media tools and networks is at the root of some very poor marketing practices out there, what’s worse is that’s since the general population in leadership positions commonly doesn’t understand these tools it is only the most resourceful or those willing to spend money on well referred and qualified counsel who will even know the difference.

    In normal matters no one in the right mind would blame a tool, yet because the matter that we deal with here is not something physical the perception is completely different – it takes too much reading and investigation and effort and so people would rather say, it just doesn’t work. In the non profit sector isn’t it just so much more important to learn and get it right? Aren’t these causes worth it?

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