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Adopting a successful social media strategy doesn’t just mean getting yourself a Facebook page or Twitter profile. Social media is no longer an add-on – it must be at the centre of your business, according to one leading digital interaction expert.

David Cushman, MD of the 90:10 Group, who blogs at, told me in a video interview that the biggest mistake publishers can make in this area is adopting a heavy handed “top down” approach. “It is not a channel, it is not a way in which you distribute content … it has to be at the heart of what you do,” he says. Now watch on…

Audit first

Cushman’s mantra is to listen to both your organisation and your audience and keep an open mind. “You have to let your audience inform what you do. Only then will they interested in passing it around,” he says.

Paywalls hinder sharing

Few would deny this stuff is important. But what if your business model isn’t compatible with social sharing? Erecting a paywall, for example, around your content hinders exposure and the building of interpersonal networks. Cushman acknowledges specialist information, delivered well, can lead to a successful paywall model but closed is still not good enough.

The New York Times realised this and sidestepped the paywall model – readers can view articles discovered through social media, even if you’ve passed your monthly limit. But as we’ve mentioned this approach undermines the paywall entirely.

Almost a quarter of a million people now digitally subscribe to The Financial Times, an increase of 8.1 percent since January 2011. But Cushman is cautious:

“Even they haven’t got it right for me, because they’re not doing it for me. It’s not focused enough and it’s not social.”

Who’s really open?

The Guardian’s call to media and technology bloggers proudly declares that it is an open platform. But as Cushman points out “the only truly open silo is the internet.”

Cushman (who spoke to the Guardian recently) thinks this attitude will encourage people who identify with the brand to contribute. Fundamentally, there has to be some incentive for the blogger to move onto the website. “The people who chose to go on their platform do so with a mission in mind”

Originally published on TheMediaBriefing