Social Media is not just about the short term. It’s not just about a small project here or there to check what is going on. Strategically companies need to be connected to social media for the long term. Why? Because they need to create long term loyalty with their stakeholders who are using social media and also because they need to treat social media as a resource of intelligence. They need to know what is coming up. What is likely to surface next on a blog or what is spreading like wildfire across Twitter. It makes good business sense.
Companies need to start planning for the long term now. If you are forced to suddenly engage with social media, you are not going to be able to do so within a week or a month.
In order to do this, some companies are turning to their trusted but often highly expensive incumbent agencies. This is natural but in most cases it is not appropriate and it can lead to costly mistakes as incumbents don’t have a deep seated knowledge or understanding of social media culture. Often they are not experienced or knowledgeable enough to provide their clients with the best and most up-to-date advice they require. Or they might downplay its significance out of a desire to maintain the status quo at the expense of the effectiveness of their client’s communications.
In order to adapt to the new culture of social media, businesses need to work with nimble and innovative specialists who are not weighed down with the baggage of the old media world. Of course the old media world still has its role but every company needs to look to the future. And the future is a few seconds away on the internet where each day I can see more and more people using social technologies to share information and news without relying upon traditional editors controlling them and telling them in effect what they should be interested in.
Whereas traditional media is about leveraging contacts with key journalists and editors. Something which incumbent PR agencies can be brilliant at doing. Social media is about harnessing the community who vote on what content they think is most interesting. It is a completely different approach and requires completely different skills and a new mindset.
Thankfully increasing numbers of enlightened and intelligent directors of communications are choosing to come to ItsOpen (itsopen.co.uk) for that reason. They are a bit suspicious of their incumbent agencies who, while very good at what they do, have built their success off the back of an old media model and culture which is no longer entirely relevant for today’s social media age. Dealing with a group of anonymous but influential bloggers is quite different to having an off-the-record briefing with a journalist you have wined and dined and partied with.
You only have to look at the readership figures of most newspapers (as opposed to their sites) to see that more and more people are getting their information now online. And all around us telephone companies are launching new slicker models which enable you to link to Twitter or Facebook or YouTube more quickly and easily so you can share updates with your friends and colleagues. And it’s not just B2C either. You cannot define social media in such narrow terms. Social Media is being used by all groups: as we know even the President of the United States is twittering. Six months ago that would have been dismissed as absurd. But now it is accepted and we know how popular he is. Just imagine if your company could harness social media like Obama’s communications team!!
Whether or not you feel culturally comfortable with social media at this early phase, it makes commercial sense to be where you customers and stakeholders are and not where you would prefer them to be!