Social media is credited with communications breakthroughs, bringing seemingly instant fame to the previously voiceless and helping brands reach their best customers with targeted messaging. But it is really anything new?
Early man painted stories on cave walls. These large graphics told of their triumphs and dreams. Kind of like Pinterest boards.
After man learned to utilize and control fire, humans sent smoke signals across the horizon to alert each other of their goings on. Just like Twitter.
Can you hear me now?
In more recent centuries, we had the town crier, whose job it was to call out every hour if all was well or if something required attention. Now, we all have that friend on Facebook who updates every little thing as well as the big issues of our days.
The printing presses of American Colonial days brought us pamphleteers. These narratives are now told on websites, blogs, or in your crazy uncle’s diatribe on Facebook.
During President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, the nation paused to listen to his fireside chats on the radio. Now, we have Trump tweets to alert us to the pulse of the White House. The nation definitely hears him, right?
Of course, we can’t forget the old soap box, upon which people could stand in a town square to make their voices heard. Now, we have video raps by Eminen and some random people you never heard of ranting into their phone cameras in cars.
flaw: current lack of accountability in social media
So, what’s wrong with social media? Currently, there is a gaping void when it comes to accountability. Traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, continue to face accountability. If something is libel or slander, they face lawsuits. The defense against libel and slander is truth. That’s if you end up in court, of course.
Propagandists from abroad leveraged the power of Facebook as a far-reaching medium to publish fake news, such as Pizzagate, and there hasn’t been anyone held accountable for that falsity.
As for businesses on social media, they can face harsh backlashes for poorly executed messages, such as the Dove soap ad with a black woman morphing into a white woman. In that case, the company deserved criticism.
Other times, however, social media can fail businesses, such as allowing negative reviews by people who are not verified customers. Before social media, a person could stand on the sidewalk ranting negative things about your business, but it would not have too much effect. Now, a disgruntled ex-employee, crazy customer or unscrupulous competitor can damage a brand.
This is where social media gets a bad rap, and deservedly so.
The false rumors problem can scare people away from social media, for fear their message won’t be believed if conveyed on these platforms. For example, in a recent blog, I related how a water utility was not keeping residents updated during a flooding crisis because it’s leadership considered social media to be a misleading grapevine. In response, its customers suggested at a public meeting that it provide daily and intraday updates during a crisis on its website and then link to those updates with social media.
be part of a better social media landscape
Your customers and prospects are looking for you on social media. Your message can be delivered directly to them, and in large numbers, with targeted social media advertising and content.
Businesses cannot ignore social media. It’s not going away. You’ve got to be in to win it. You don’t need to saturate your social media outlets, but you should consistently and programmatically get your messages out.
Pick which social channels to be on. Select the most appropriate handful. Do not try to do it all. Decide which mix of media showcase your stuff best, e.g., blogs, videos, graphics, etc.
Plan your social media content calendar around events, sales campaigns and seasonal specials. Be a part of a larger discussion and share relevant stories by others with your audience with your own thoughts.
Define yourself first, before others try to do it for you. No one can do that better than yourself.
For more information, contact communications consultant Katharine Fraser.