Social Media – The Other End of the World

As my regular blog snorkellers will know, I’ve not been backward in coming forward with my theory that social media is on its way out. This is for reasons too innumerable to mention here, including the fact that no-one’s making any money out of it, it’s being swamped by spam, the user growth figures are slowing, the user growth figures have never reflected the reality of the amount of people who sign up then never use the service again and – my favourite – because I say so.

There is another theory, however and in the spirit of fairness and balance, I give an iteration of it a hearing here. Clickety-clink – here’s the link!

(Can’t believe I just wrote that.)

The theory says that the traditional digital comms tools – email, websites – are themselves on the way out, to be subsumed into social media. The reasoning goes that social media provides opportunities to communicate and to provide content that email cannot – to summarise and paraphrase – email is one-dimensional and the social media are not. Same goes for the traditional, reasonably static website – why would you, really, when user-generated, arguably richer content pertaining to a brand or organisation is out there in the blogosphere, or posted on Facebook?

But then the theory trips up. I think it trips up because of the widespread inability to separate social media into its two component parts.

  • Something that people do in their spare time (and when they’re notworking, obviously) to keep up with friends and family, ask for advice on things that trouble/interest them and view/download jokes, clips, tracks, patches etc etc.
  • Something that simply is not working as a marketing, communications or reputation-building tool.

Just because individuals, in their day-to-day lives, may decide to run those lives via Facebook or Twitter or some combination of the two, does not make them valid, or valuable, business tools. Business requires communication without distractions, without logins, without a ‘spirit of community’ and – most importantly – without commentary from everyone who reads it. This is why email, as it is currently, works – for business purposes – so well. You can choose who receives it, you can monitor it and you can cane people who misuse it or try to hide their use of it. The thing that will change about email is how we send and receive it and what it looks like when we do send and receive it.

I also draw attention to the school of thought that says ‘ask a 20-year-old whether they’re using email’ as if this has any bearing on the matter. No, they’re not – they’re texting and using social media (well, some are, anyway) – but, quite frankly, who cares? Email is a business tool (and I include marketing and corporate comms within ‘business’) and 20-year-olds are a notoriously difficult-to-reach audience with limited appeal. You might as well ask an 80-year-old whether they’re using email for all the relevance it has.

And traditional, static websites – well, here’s a sensible post. Actually, there’s more of a place for traditional corporate websites that ever before – and why? Because, thanks to social media (and the way the bigger internet players are forcing us to behave – yes, forcing – Google SideWiki, anyone?) there’s such a slew of information that, ironically enough, the only place you’ll be able to go for reasonably accurate and (dare I say) impartial information will be the corporate website.

Now, I’d just like to make it clear – again, and mainly for my wife, who thinks I’m a cave-dwelling technophobe – that I am not either denying the existence of social media or telling anyone to stick their heads in the sand. Social media is here. Loads of people are using it. It is right and fitting that if we work in communications then we should have a knowledge of it. That being said – I repeat – do not confuse the social media that people use to run/ruin their personal lives and the social media that has all the potential to ruin your business (uncontrolled rumour and bad-mouthing) and none of the potential to materially enhance your revenues.

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Filed under Communications Strategy, Evaluation, External Communications, Public Relations, Social Media

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