Social Media Isn’t the Second Coming…

I’ve seen some suggestion recently that “traditional” PR tactics are being put to death by social media. That news releases and social media releases have no use. That pitching story ideas by Twitter will soon be the norm. I hate to burst the bubble, but social media isn’t the second coming of…well, you know who.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe social media has amazing possibilities for many brands. But social media alone won’t help most brands get the full potential of what great PR can offer. There always can be a few exceptions to a rule, of course, but for most brands, you’d be doing it a great disservice to shift all your communications outreach to social media.

If I’m trying to reach a mass audience of people over the age of, say, 55, social media won’t get me there. It might be a great way to connect with a small percentage who are tech savvy, but I need to put the brunt of my efforts behind media outreach to radio news programs, TV news, national and local newspapers and specific magazines, to name a few.

If I want to get my product in the hands of large numbers of 20-somethings because product research has shown that consumers are more likely to buy X after interacting with it, social media falls short. I need street teams or experiential events or hosted group gatherings or something else that allows people to interact with it.

A lot of other examples come to mind, but I’ll get back to the point.

For the majority of brands, social media efforts are a great strategic complement to a robust PR plan or as part of a larger integrated communications plan. But it doesn’t replace “traditional” PR. Let’s not get so captured by shiny-object syndrome that we take our eyes off the bigger picture, myself included.

Or do I have it all wrong? Did I miss the boat on this one?

*Image by Melanie B.

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10 responses to “Social Media Isn’t the Second Coming…

  1. While I agree on all of your points, I have to say that it all depends on who your market its. I don’t particularly care about the 55+ market for my own work, because since my own work is focused on technology that they simply don’t use/buy.

    But, I also have to point to specialist networks. While 55+ penetration is not as high as younger markets, the segment that penetration is reaching is sizable and growing. If your campaign (or your client’s campaign) is aimed at those markets, using primarily online media is not going to work anyway. You have to segment your campaign to reach those markets.

    But, as I said before, that market doesn’t mean as much to me (professionally), because the conversions come from the young, expanding income, technology adopting kids of gen x and y. They don’t use words like “fixed income” and talk about how expensive everything is, and they spend good money on items and services that previous generations won’t even consider.

  2. I agree, but I don’t think it’s only not best for reaching seniors, though that was an easy example.

    My point is that it has great uses, but those uses aren’t perfect for accomplishing all the marketing/PR/communications goals for most companies. Social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

  3. I definitely agree that it isn’t a universal solution. I would even say that analyzing a campaign’s needs and figuring out a segmentation strategy is becoming more and more important a skill as the types of media available increase.

  4. I agree with the premise, Dave, that social isn’t the end of the road for traditional PR. As long as there is a demographic that is connected through traditional channels, there will be a need for traditional PR, and currently the numbers are clearly behind traditional media channels.

    The social movement signifies a shift in how people consume information, and that shift is generational as much as it is technological. Traditional media is caught in that limbo justifying its existence in the face of a clear revolution in the way information is delivered and consumed and holding to the business models and tenants of balanced reporting of a previous generation.

    I do think, however, that we are in an interim step between the affinity for opinion-driven content found on the Web and the balance and fair reporting found in traditional media. In the end, I think that traditional will become a component of social campaigns, supporting areas where online and mobile can’t reach.

    Will be interesting to see how things settle out. Just happy to be part of the discussion.


  5. Brad – great thoughts and interesting prediction. It actually wouldn’t surprise me if you’re right some day.

    I agree that digital will continue to be even more important going forward. But I don’t believe people will stop watching local TV news or reading local newspapers – whether online or in print. They’ll continue to have a place in media relations campaigns, whether as the focus or as a component of social media outreach.

    Glad you’re part of the discussion. We need more smart thinking like this.

  6. David, I agree with you completely. While social media is exciting and certainly useful for many campaigns, it shouldn’t be an automatic replacement for traditional PR tactics and media releations outreach. Depending on the target audience and the campaign objective, social media may or may not be the best way to go.

    And although I am a young professional, I guess I am one of those “old souls” who still prefers the slick pages of a magazine to the bright lights of a computer screen.

  7. I don’t understand why people fear it so much. Social media isn’t a hostile takeover- it’s just another way to make an impression with your brand. It’s a way to reinforce the brand awareness with a new audience. We’ve got to roll with the times or eventually you’ll just be overtaken by those that adapted. And anyways- isn’t that the cool thing about our jobs? Being able to switch it up and learn new ways to engage people?

  8. MsCatalysta – I agree that you have to evolve. And some – okay many – do fear it, probably out of ignorance more than anything. My point is that it doesn’t invalidate the other multitude of ways to help raise awareness and or connect with consumers.

  9. Blogs and online newspapers have a long way to go before books and print newspapers are passe. Ditto for social media firms and traditional media firms.

    But to respond to thePuck above: If you are selling technology products and focusing on people under a certain age because that demography is not your target market and doesn’t understand how the gizmo works, may I plant the idea in your head that senior citizens network everywhere – with other seniors over McDonalds’ coffees and mahjong games, with their mailman and hair cutter and tax accountant.

    By sharing the benefits (and drawbacks) of your product to non-target demographics, you are enabling people you’d otherwise not consider to tell other people beyond your scope about you and your brand, they will all tell their kids (who may not know your company) and you get sales and reputation and respect.

  10. Hi David,

    Great post! Business has evolved in dozens of ways over the years. Accounting practices, IT infrastructure, traditional marketing. Remember when having a website was cutting edge?

    We have to remember that any evolution of a business practice should be building on and adapting what we are already doing that works. Yes, some things will be obsolete and fall away naturally. Others will stay in fundamentals, but adapt to new tools or technologies.

    What remains the same is that we’re all about being in business to better provide something of value to customers. Social media tools are but one way to facilitate those relationships, the same way client golf games and handwritten thank you notes have done for ages. We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water just because we have a shiny object to play with.

    Social media is powerful and holds great potential to help companies come back to building relationships with their customers. But as you so wisely pointed out, it’s not the end all be all, and someday, many of these things will be as ubiquitous as email.

    Thanks for your insights.

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