For over a century, brands took to mass media channels to convey their messages. But the broadcast era is long gone. Now we’re knee deep in the digital era—an era filled with multiple means of communications, platforms, niche interests and audiences that are seeking content on all screens—sometimes at the same time.

“The medium is the message” is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan meaning that “the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”

To expand on what our grandfather of communication so eloquently coined: choose the right medium (and, for our conversation, platform or channel) that fits your message best and connects with your audience in the most authentic and engaging way—a way that aligns with your brand voice. Before we get to the why and how of this equation, let’s first talk about what is “medium” and “message.”

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Branding and marketing enjoy a plethora of platforms and channels into which you can unleash your message of brand and company. Platforms can be defined as all the social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Periscope, Snapchat, YouTube, etc.

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Channels can be referred to the marketing channels: direct mail, advertising (press, native advertising, online, print), experiential.

Both are mediums through which your messaging is transmitted. Your message: all the ways you connect with your audience/clients/stakeholders/brand ambassadors. This can be social media posts, videos, memes, infographics, whitepapers, games, interactive online experiences, ads and more. With so many tools available and so many ways to use brand messaging to connect to audiences wherever they are, how do you decipher which medium suits your message best? Here are some steps to help you on your way:

1. Know your brand’s voice, messaging and positioning—and see that the rest of your team are fluent in it as well.

A brand needs to keep its voice, character and messaging on point. There’s a relationship it has created with its ecosystem of audiences, ambassadors and stakeholders—internally and externally. Part of a good brand guide should include a brand dictionary that establishes the vocabulary, keywords, etc. that the brand uses to communicate. The brand’s social media and marketing team should be fluent in that language. This will create continuity with your audience.

2. Understand your audience’s different niches: Where do they hang? Who are their influencers? Who is your biggest brand ambassador within the niches?

People get their information in all kinds of places, and the multitudes of platforms have created a level playing field for brands to have a direct engagement with audiences. In order to better understand how to encourage comments and engagement—and also drive lead generation—you need to ‘hang’ with your audience on the platforms that they engage with and develop an intimate relationship which is open to two-way communications.

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3. Go with the bigger established platforms and establish your brand there before conquering the great unknown platform.

When a company is starting out their social media efforts, there is an excitement to establish a page or profile on every platform possible. That will cost a lot of time and money and also muddle your messaging. Go with the established platforms first—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn—and then add the platforms that might enhance your brand later.

4. Understand which platforms your brand shouldn’t be on.

Don’t post and create content for a platform that isn’t aligned with your brand’s positioning and your audience.

As an example for aligning your brand positioning with your audience, the Martha Stewart Living Instagram has it down: over 657,000 followers and 2,398 posts – quite popular. And it should be – Instagram is a perfect platform for her brand. It’s image based, which is great for showing her flower arrangements, home products, food, etc.

Pinterest, where her page has over 760,000 followers, is even more perfect: an audience largely made up of women over 24 who are interested in food, home design and crafts – on fleek for Martha's demographic.

Now, say you're in the tire-selling business. Is Pinterest a place you want to spend a lot of time and energy?

Probably not. Best bet is to concentrate efforts on another platform.

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5. Test new platforms only if your niche audience is there.

With one big exception: Give new platforms a shot for one-offs for a specific event – like doing a live stream on Periscope when launching a product.

6. When you’re testing a new platform: get in there!

Learn the ins, outs and engagement customs of the new platform. When you assume you can interact the same way you did in other platforms, and you're much more likely to suffer through an embarrassing faux pas.

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7. Use a DAM to manage platform-specific content.

Content and social media managers are working fast and furious every day. Having a resource they can depend on for brand-consistent imagery and content is essential for their work. And if those DAMs hold platform-specific image sizes and messaging tone, even better – you don't want to go off-brand because a wide-angle image had to get cropped for Instagram.

Platforms are going to continue emerging; new communication channels will continue to evolve. Developing a strategy on how to engage and stay on brand will empower continued evolution and audience relevance – wherever that engagement takes place.

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