The One Reason to Focus on Tools


Often, social media experts say "don’t talk about the tools; it’s not about the tools." Of course, it’s true; to understand social media, one needs to understand communications, which transcends the ever-changing sets of tools.

So why do a bunch of us still obsess about tools, breathlessly jumping on the latest Twidget or Facebooger and declaiming its virtues (led by our sometimes silent cries of "first!")?

That’s easy. It’s because we’re communications professionals. Even when it’s not our job, it’s in our nature to geek out about new ways to communicate.

So go ahead and talk about tools. Just remember their place, their context in the worlds of your clients.

Also, I promise not to be too snarky about those who obsess about tools. Maybe.

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  1. I remember when a good friend of mine in high school, a flute player, was finally able to get a flute made of silver, rather than some other kind of metal. I asked her what the difference was–after all, isn’t a flute a flute? No, she said, it’s the difference between making sound and making music.

    The tools are important because they allow us to do what we do. (You can’t play the flute without…the flute.) More important, though, is the quality of what you build with them.

  2. Tamsen,

    Thanks for commenting– you are right– that is a great illustration of the need for tools knowledge. A musician must still play well and know what makes good music and good playing, but the difference between a silver flute and a cheaper one is pretty convincing for those who know

  3. Funny, I was just thinking about something along these lines…

    We talk about a social media “toolbox” but don’t always extend the metaphor far enough, perhaps. Yes, tools are just tools – and I’m one of those who harp on about the importance of setting goals and developing a strategy before leaping in – but it does work both ways around.

    Suppose you want to build a bookshelf? What tools you have in your toolbox – and how well you know how to use them – will play a big role in the design of the bookshelf. (Time and other resources, too, of course.) So if what you’ve got is a hammer and hand-saw, a piece of pine board, and half an hour… realistically, you’re not going to set out to build a scrolled neo-Victorian marvel in mother-of-pearl and black oak.

  4. Sometimes we are surprised what people can make of the most rudimentary tools, though. That speaks to knowing tools and materials, their strengths and limitations.

    Me, I would end up with the world’s worst coffin.

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