Social Media 3.0: The “Next Big Thing” Just Might Be the “Great Tune Out”

August 30th, 2010

(Where is that “dislike” button when we want it?)

Everyone in PR is on a non-stop sugar high for the “next big thing” in social media.  We are curious as practitioners, and clients are equally curious on how to maximize business and outreach opportunities.

As with any discipline, the clues to the PR industry’s future could be in the past.  When we look at common forms of 1-to-1 marketing communications, we quickly see their pros and cons.  And, with each con comes a certain marketplace (or state) reaction.

Personal solicitation.  Pros: In person, face-to-face, about as direct as it gets.  Emotion and gestures significantly enhance the communication, and help the communicator gauge the recipient’s reaction and calibrate accordingly.  Cons: Um… when was the last time someone knocked on your door on a weekend morning?  Unless the recipient sought out the communication, solicitation is about as annoying and jarring as it gets.

Mail.  Pros: Targeted mailings can hone in on demographics and appeal directly to the likely customer base.  Low-cost production tools and software allow for slick material presentation.  Cons: Like solicitation, mail can be very annoying.  Using (wasting?) all that paper runs contrary to the common business drive to be eco-friendly.  Privacy concerns are real with stolen mail, such as credit card solicitations.

Phone.  Pros: Similar to personal solicitation, the caller can follow a script with options that directly address the recipient’s questions.  Cons: The advent of the government-mandated do-not-call registry speaks for itself.  Calls always seem to come when you get home after a long day at work, doubling your blood pressure.

Now, take a step back from the pros/cons.  If you think about it, each time these innovations in marketing/publicity appeared or became evident, they were heralded as the “new” way of communication, which everyone would be eager to embrace.  Yet as time wore on, each fell out of favor in that regard.  The communications tactics became associated with duplicity, insensitivity, and utter disregard for personal preference or privacy.

Fast-forward to today, and the hot tactic in public relations is… SocialMedia24/7In your face.  “Speak directly to stakeholders.”

As much as our industry extols social media as the most important PR trend, the problem with social media is that it too can overreach.  Indeed, with new technologies sprouting up that help people block social media feeds, it’s legitimate to ask whether social media risks being branded as the next big ANNOYING thing.  Even if users opt-in to your social media messaging, that doesn’t mean they’re thrilled with complete bombardment of everything and anything your company is doing.

Here’s a simple way to look at it.  Everyone on Facebook, Twitter, etc. likely has a friend whose inane status updates (“brushing my teeth” … “turning on the TV” … “wonders if it’s all worth it” … “boy it’s raining!”) have pushed that person to the block/unfollow wasteland.  Similarly, if your business has daily social media updates like “cleaning the floors” or “we love Mondays” or “high power bill, AGAIN!” then you’re likely overextending yourself.

The solution is to publish worthwhile content, thus not posting just for the hell of it.  This is a fact of life: when we’re wooing a client, customer, love interest, whoever – nothing speaks more than smart, substantive communications.  Your social media strategy should not be everything-and-the-kitchen-sink.  Target your promotions, updates, and messaging so that followers get excited when they read about your activity, instead of reflexively clicking “block this user.”

Take time to craft a metric-driven public relations strategy that leverages social media when relevant, but appreciate the fact that content is always king.

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