By Francis MoranAlthough I am utterly persuaded of the efficacy of new and social media as potent marketing, communications, outreach and customer service channels, I am also utterly persuaded that far too many so-called social media marketers are, quite simply, drowning in the Kool-Aid.
An early indication of this social media myopia became apparent in a conversation I had a year or so back with one of these self-styled new media gurus. She and I got into a discussion one evening about the value of social media channels. Her argument was that any and every new media channel trumped any and every so-called old media channel; that this new media model had completely disrupted the old media model.
It was well into the evening and I was tired so I probably got a little more heated than I might have under different circumstances. Finally I said, “So you think 100 followers on a blog is worth more than a story in the New York Times?” Unbelievably, she said yes. I rolled my eyes and walked away.
When I shared this tale a few days later with my pal Tony Lyons, who clearly draws more deeply on our shared Irish heritage and so has a wit far sharper than mine, he said, “Oh, she’s just choking on the long tail.” Boy, did he nail it.
As a marketing strategist, the trouble I’ve had in dealing with social media enthusiasts is their conviction that it’s a brave new world now in which everything has changed. Maybe it’s because I take a more strategic view of things or maybe it’s just that I’ve lived long enough to see more than one communications revolution come — They still used typewriters and triple-copy paper in the first city daily newsroom in which I worked so I’ve been around a long time — but this new social media stuff ain’t so different.
At our recent presentation at Zone5ive, a technology marketing forum in Ottawa, Canada, Kathryn Schwab and I dealt with the challenges PR people must now overcome in the face of suggestions that social media has trumped older tactics. The same strategic considerations apply. Do these new channels reach your intended audience? Do you have effective messaging that is suited for the particular attributes of these new channels? Will the resources necessary to succeed on these new channels deliver a return at least as good as the same resources spent elsewhere?
Far too often, choking on the long tail, social media Pollyannas can’t take the deep breaths necessary to ask these questions and wait for the answers.
And please do not let me leave the impression that all social media enthusiasts are drinking the Kool-Aid. One of the best presentations I’ve ever seen is by unchallenged social media maven Tara Hunt, someone who has built a sizable reputation navigating these uncharted new waters. While Tara is a huge fan of social networks and an enthusiastic user of them to promote both her personal brand and that of her company, she is also well aware that your social media strategy won’t save you.