Allow Me to Disagree. . .

businessman sits in a chair and reading the news paperConsidering I’m writing these thoughts in a blog post, and that the #PRBC was formed through Twitter, I think it’s safe to say I understand the value of social media.  That said, I also understand its limitations and that it is one piece of the publicity puzzle; a puzzle that include events, traditional media placements and a comprehensive strategy which ensures synergy amongst all components.With that in mind, it’s no surprise that a recent blog post (you’ll want to note this was a blog post as you keep reading,) The Fallacy of Facebook: Twittering Away Our Time, rubbed me the wrong way.  By no means do I disagree with all points made, but I think this post warrants some scrutiny and careful examination.

Where I agree

The post’s author, Mr. Cameron, is a former NBC News director and anchor.  Having worked on the ‘other side,’ he clearly understands the value of traditional media and has seen what it can do for its subjects.

I agree that it is unlikely as many eyes will see your fan page as will see your newspaper placement.

I concur that, “Newspapers may be shrinking, but they still have readers who turn to them and their journalists with trust.”

Where I disagree

Here comes the laundry list:

And as for Twitter… what a time waster! It’s the equivalent of online Kindergarten: A bunch of self-absorbed kids, each yelling louder than the next one, “I’m cool. Pay attention to me”. Who cares, or remembers?
A Pear Analytics study revealed 40.55% of tweets are pointless babble.  That leaves 59.45% of the tweets in the twittersphere to be other than pointless babble.  I’ve met small business leaders who have closed business deals on Twitter.  Clearly, it serves a purpose.  Verdict – Twitter is not ‘the equivalent of online kindergarten.’  Of note, I glean a significant amount of the statistics and other information I include in my traditional media pitches from credible sources that I find on Twitter.  I also network with reporters, discuss news and trends with my peers and take note of how various brands are effectively leveraging Twitter to grow their brand equity.  I would hardly call any of those ‘a time waster.’
Social media is fun, but it’s not the salvation for an industry trying to reach people with credible, thoughtful messages.
If this is true, then why are so many newspapers relying on their digital products to save them?  We all recall the massive layoffs at The Journal News. Gannett (parent company of The Journal News) admitted part of its corporate restructuring plan, which included 50 job cuts in the newsroom, included enhancing its online product in the hopes of boosting revenues.  I’d venture a guess that this sudden revelation to offer a strong digital product wasn’t random.  If Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are successful, why wouldn’t traditional media outlets want to try and build a similarly successful digital product?

Whether it’s traditional or social media, the goal is to reach your consumers where they are.  If they are on Facebook, then your brand should be on Facebook.  If your consumers are watching YouTube, than you should build a brand channel.  If they are reading blogs. . .well, you get the idea.

Social media also offers an additional touchpoints with a brand’s consumer base and enables direct interaction between the brand and its consumers.  Looking to survey your consumers?  Offer a promotion?

Brandweek reported in August 2009 that Starbucks was the number one consumer brand on Twitter, having amassed more than 3.6 million fans.  Now the Starbucks brand isn’t lacking credibility and it is thriving on Facebook.  It surveys consumers through the social media platform and even promoted ‘free pastry day’ through Facebook.  I personally learned about the promotion through Facebook, went to Starbucks on that day and was joined by a line of consumers that stretched outside the coffee shop’s doors.  If Facebook isn’t credible, why is a well-established brand like Starbucks on it, and furthermore, why are their consumers acting based on information obtained through social media if it lacks credibility?  (Of note, I fimly believe the source is what lends credibility, not the source’s method of content delivery.)

As for Mr. Cameron’s pointed accusation that social media is receiving too much of the budget, clients may be paying their firm to build and maintain the platform, but it is less expensive than paying the same firm to orchestrate media buys and paying for advertisements in traditional media.  Not to mention the fact that as traditional media outlets struggle to fill space and either lessen their editorial coverage or adopt a pay-for-play model to rectify the situation, the ability to secure coverage for your news through social media is becoming far greater than it is through traditional media.

While I could undoubtedly go on for pages defending social media as a necessary component of a comprehensive marketing and public relations strategy, I simply don’t see the need.

As brands embrace social media, communications pros need to either adapt or find an equally effective way to help their brand thrive without embracing the new communication medium so many are using.  Bottom line – I’ll stick with a diversified strategy of both social and traditional media.  What about you?

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