When social media is presented in a giddy, euphoric style that hails these communication tools as marketing saviors, it feels foolish. And it’s embarrassing, sort of like a tent preacher yelling and stomping at a crowd of bewildered followers. Plus, it puts an unfair expectation on social media.
Arianna Huffington, publisher of the online news source Huffington Post, wrote:
“The media world's fetishization of social media has reached idol-worshipping proportions. Media conference agendas are filled with panels devoted to social media and how to use social tools to amplify coverage, but you rarely see one discussing what that coverage should actually be about. As Wadah Khanfar, former Director General of Al Jazeera, told our editors when he visited our newsroom last week, ‘The lack of contextualization and prioritization in the U.S. media makes it harder to know what the most important story is at any given time.’"
Then, Huffington worked Thoreau into her op-ed about social media, which I find beautiful:
"‘We are in great haste,’ wrote Thoreau in 1854, ‘to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.’ And today, we are in great haste to celebrate something going viral, but seem completely unconcerned whether the thing that went viral added one iota of anything good -- including even just simple amusement -- to our lives.”
Huffington and Thoreau emphasize a critical litmus test: Is the story worth telling? Realize, too, that all those Facebook “likes” only have marketing value if a company can convert them to its bottom line.
Yet, all this preaching about social media’s proper place doesn’t mean we’re kicking social to the curb. These publishing tools are super useful, particularity in the age of mobile connectivity.
Social media has great value in how it's NOT used. Do not use it …
1. As a marketing savior.
First, it’s never good to dub material things as saviors. Nearly every religious or philosophical discipline holds work in high regard. We might find some shortcuts in our work, but we’ll never find saviors or silver bullets. We must work, and our work must produce substance; in this case, a compelling story and a focused message that can be distributed in a flexible way.
2. Because my competitors are on there and so I guess I oughta be.
If your only motivation to “be on Twitter” is because your competitors are there, your tweets will lack substance because you’ll put little work into crafting timely, consistent and relevant messaging. Doing something for the wrong reasons is a damning predicament. Politicians who run for status rather than causes usually don’t make it beyond small-time posts. Girls longing to be brides for the grandeur of weddings seldom make good wives.
3. Without knowing your audience.
Can you answer these critical questions? Who’s the audience? When studying your company’s brand and message in its entirety, what information is best delivered via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social tools? Can you turn a press release into an “infograph” that garners social “shares” and pulls new visitors into your website, for instance?
One way to learn about your audience is to consider the data as it relates to age groups and gender. Here’s some stats on how adults use social networking sites, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey:
- 69 percent of online adults use social networking sites.
- 66 percent of online adults use Facebook.
- 16 percent of online adults use Twitter.
- 20 percent of online adults use Linkedin.
Social use by age, according to the survey:
- 92 percent of Internet users 18 to 29 use social networking sites.
- 73 percent of Internet users 30 to 49 use social networking sites.
- 57 percent of Internet users 50 to 64 use social networking sites.
- > 1 percent of Internet users 65 or older use social networking sites.
As a side note, Depend — a company that relies on an elderly audience for product sales — launched ad campaigns in 2009 and 2012, and neither used social media. The same goes for Fixodent. Yet AARP, a group that positions itself for people 50 and older, uses a social strategy that relies on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Social use by gender, according to the survey:
- 75 percent of women.
- 63 percent of men.
Social use by race/ethnicity, according to the survey:
- 68 percent of white, non-Hispanics.
- 68 percent of black, non-Hispanics.
- 72 percent of Hispanics.
I expected a high percentage of youths to use social media, but the numbers for the older demographics are stronger than some would have assumed. The gender divide seems natural. Women tend to be more social and communicate more regularly, in general. The last set of numbers, however, is surprising. Internet use is typically lower among ethnic groups because of less access and lower incomes.
So something’s brewing. Here we have the most intriguing factor in the evolving landscape of interactive, online communication: mobile.
The third and final installment will be posted on Monday. If you missed part 1 of the series, find it here. Stay tuned!