We all have our favorite way of getting a point of view across. This includes the structure of our arguments and the channels we prefer. Yet if the digital revolution has taught us anything it’s that people want to consume content and conversations through their favorite channels, not the ones we may prefer. So it concerns me that so many social media gurus are almost exclusively using Facebook and Twitter to help drive interaction with customers. My fear isn’t that these are the wrong channels but rather that we are in danger of simply replacing an old set of channels (traditional media) with a new and arguably narrow set (social media). In other words we are moving from people that were good at getting news media to get our news out, to people that are good at tweeting. There is surely a lot more to digital than this? Done right digital is about creating channel agnostic content and by engaging with the customer through their preferred channel (rather than ours). By driving people to Facebook and Twitter we are being sensible in that a lot of people are hanging out in these places BUT we are missing a huge opportunity that digital creates and that is to be where the customer wants to have a dialog, rather than insisting they play on our pitch. Some will argue that brands have simply followed customers to these places. That is only partly true. Much of the growth of Facebook and Twitter is because brands have adopted these sites. My message to you is not that you abandon Facebook et al but rather that you shouldn’t assume that these channels are the starting point. Digital is without doubt the biggest opportunity our industry has seen in decades. Let’s not waste it.
PR agencies have been people businesses for as long as I can remember. Yet the emergence of digital has created the opportunity for these same agencies to start selling ‘technology based solutions’ (an overused phrase I know). These ‘solutions’ cover areas such as analytics, blogs, email marketing, micro site development… the list goes on. Most agencies outsource this development to… developers. This is largely because most agency heads can write a press release or a blog but wouldn’t have a clue about how to write code. Many agencies can see that if they want to get away from an hourly business model they need to sell technology IP and ideally IP that can be resold to many clients without much additional development effort. Again, though, most agencies simply don’t have the skills in house to develop the technology, or even the skills to effectively manage the development of technology. In other words, if agencies really do want to sell ‘technology solutions’ they are going to have to start hiring developers AND people capable of managing these people. If this happens the idea of a PR agency have a CTO (chief technology officer) that is client facing will become commonplace. Does your agency have a CTO? Should it?
Facebook is growing like a weed is hardly news. That Facebook has overtaken Google as a source for news maybe. Beyond has just posted the results of a survey they ran about Facebook on YouTube. It provides some great data for all you PR and marketing people that are trying to figure out how to make best use of Facebook and how to counsel your clients. For example, did you know that the brands that are liked most on Facebook are all cars and the brands that are liked least are all computers? There are also facts like 30 billion pieces of content are shared every month. That’s because the average user creates 90 pieces of content a month. The survey also reveals that the largest age group using social networking sites are ages 35 to 44. So much for this being a youth movement. Anyway, if Facebook facts are important to you, check out the survey.
It used be that you had to be in the news to be important. Now you have to have a huge Twitter following and hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook. Indeed if you can get tens of thousands of people to follow you on Twitter then you have the publishing power of the New York Times or a lifestyle publication such as GQ. In short, with the right following your pages become the media you’ve always wanted. Of course, if you are already famous getting that following is far simpler than if nobody has ever heard of you. So ironically, to get a large following on Twitter (so that you can rely less on the media), you are probably best getting some great media exposure. But if you do that then you will need to pay attention to your media profile and that will dilute your ability to manage your online profile (unless you have unlimited resources). Regardless of how you build your following on Facebook or Twitter, what you cannot avoid is creating content of at least 140 characters in length that people want. Computer programmers like to say: garbage in, garbage out. This is essentially the law of social media and networks. If you don’t participate by creating a point of view that is entertaining, interesting or educational, you are likely to find your following dwindle and your profile plummet. Yet so many companies plan what they are going to say to the media with military like precision and then tweet and give Facebook updates as an after thought. Is it time that got reversed? Perhaps not but it is time that brands mapped out the conversations they want to have with their social networks in ways that made gave those conversations real depth and value. Random tweets are all well and good but they do little to build the brand and could even do more harm than good. What’s more you can use these networks as central part of your comms plans, not as bolt-ons. In other words you can create communications activities that were DESIGNED for Facebook and or Twitter, rather than comms that were designed for the media and then simply echoed by these social networks. Why am I making this plea? Quite simply because I’ve realized I now spend far more time reading comments on Twitter and Facebook than I do with the media. Sure I often get directed to the media by these networks but more often than not, if it’s not on Twitter or Facebook it’s not getting anywhere near as much of my attention as it could and I’m sure I’m not alone.