Finding your community where it lives

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Lessons in social media from a traveling minstrel

David Strackany, aka Paleo, records a song in someone's kitchen.

Paleo photo by Cary Norton.

In today’s social-media crazed world, everyone is pointing toward the next big social technology. To be sure, Twitter, FriendFeed and others are amazingly valuable tools for PR professionals, marketers, customer service professionals, and any professional communicator who needs to reach people. But the hype surrounding these next-generation social networks often overshadows the importance of finding your target community where it already lives online. That community may exist on a Web 1.0 message board, an archaic-looking discussion group, or that favorite punching bag of many social media enthusiasts, MySpace.

MySpace is often described as a forgotten stepchild among hipper and more technologically advanced sites like Facebook. MySpace’s audience is believed to be primarily made up of teenagers and it’s best known for gaudy pages covered in flashing hearts and stars. But for one sector in particular, it’s still the center of the universe: nationally, thousands of independent musicians and bands rely on the site to communicate with fans, book shows and sell music. Many of them see no reason to join Facebook.

Take David Strackany. A singer-songwriter who performs under the name Paleo, Strackany has never been one to follow the crowd. Beginning in April 2006, he wrote, arranged and recorded 365 songs in 365 days, touring nearly the entire time, with shows in 152 cities. The result, known as The Song Diary, is a DVD containing more than 17 hours of music recorded in kitchens, basements, open fields, backstage rooms, Strackany’s car and anywhere else he could sit down uninterrupted long enough to record a song.

Strackany’s Paleo page on MySpace has nearly 14,000 friends. It’s safe to say he has focused his online efforts in the right place. “I have never, not once, been directed to Facebook or any other network by any contacts in the music industry,” he says. “For music specifically, Facebook doesn’t come anywhere even remotely close to competing with it.” A MySpace member since 2005, he has never joined any other online social network, he says.

The point here is not to rip on Facebook, far from it. The point is, when you’re planning a social media outreach strategy, find your constituents where they live. Don’t assume they’re using a particular social network just because you think it’s cool. If you do, at best, you’ll be shouting into the void. At worst, you’ll risk irritating your community with what could be perceived as an attempt to compete with a more popular space (especially if your brand, product or service has been criticized there). Either way, it will be obvious to anyone who notices your efforts that they are being misdirected. Take the time to find the conversations that are already happening before you try to start your own.

Tags : social media

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