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Social Media Release Criticism: Nine Points to Consider

Social Media Release Criticism: Nine Points to Consider

The recent release of the Social Media Groups Digital Snippets social media release (SMR) template caused a wave of excitement and criticism, both on and off line. Just to recap some of the posts:

Shannon Whitley: “There seem to be more entries in the world of SMNR creation tools, which is great news because we can all benefit from this creativity. However, Id like to throw out a challenge to folks like Edelman, WebITPR, Social Media Group, et. al. Ive been working on hRelease for several months now. Its supposed to be a community effort that will help move the SMNR distribution process forward.”

Jason Falls: “The template basically says you can share information about this product or company (Digital Snippits was developed in Social Media Groups work with Ford Motor Company) but we dont really want to make it easy for you to see an independent third partys review of it. in my opinion, it isnt a step forward in the evolution of the social media release.”

Chris Heuer does a nice video recap on the history of SMRs and their purpose.

Off-line criticism that Ive been privy to:

  • Digital snippets is really just PR Newswires MultiVu socialized
  • Lack of comments on Digital Snippet SMRs
  • Ive also received a couple of remarks from folks who seem miffed that newbies and sophomores with at most two or three years of social media experience are disturbing the process. That not enough research has been done.

Thoughts Moving Forward

Before moving forward, I advocate for SMRs. They’re in Now Is Gone and one of the most successful posts on this blog was an SMR case study.

Press releases are not exciting documents, often loaded with spin and jargon. While still a tool in the communications professionals arsenal, they do not comprise strategy, nor should they be relied upon as ground-breaking news mechanisms. Social media environments require a different way of disseminating news so that content creators, individual stakeholders reading social media, and possibly journalist can get this information. Enter the SMR.

But to date the SMR has not been widely adopted (though picking up momentum), and there is increasingly greater separation on SMR thought and purpose. The following candid points seek to address some of the criticism to date, and perhaps help SMR developers create widespread adoption:

  1. SMRs and press releases are tools, not strategies. If you dont have a great story to tell, they wont work. Many folks have said this, and this fact should always frame SMR discussion.
  2. We are inside the bubble, and much of the discussion to date revolves around technical merits (comments, MultiVu, YouTube or not) and means nothing to the average PR practitioner.
  3. The average PR practitioner wants a tool that serves a function: Communication with social media communities. Adoption of SMRs relies on intelligent discourse about what social media stakeholders want and need, not what we the PR 2.0 community thinks. Maggie Fox and SMG have done some research to this end, and it shows in her template. Thats why it is a step forward. Sharing this research would be helpful.
  4. Discourse needs to revolve around actual experiences on what has worked and what has not. Again, inside the bubble chatter means little, what does mean something is results. Enough SMRs have been published that we should be able to discern what works. That means people need to share their results.
  5. The ideal result from an SMR should be to engage social media communities, in turn causing community members to create their own discussions. Kami Huyse and I call this storyboarding.
  6. Whats becoming very apparent in my experience and from seeing other SMRs is they are not ideal vehicles for hosting conversation. The fundamentalist view that comments must be part of an SMR seems ridiculous to me. A nice value-added feature, but here are eight ways to have a better conversation: 1) Post SMR in blog and ask for comments, 2) better yet, write a post thats more conversation in tone 3) Use Facebook Ask Qs on the SMRs topic 4) YouTube/Seesmic 5) Utterz 6) Solicit feed back from bloggers before releasing 7) Twitter it with Qs. 8) Get a guest spot on an established BlogTalkRadio show. Etc., etc.
  7. Old-timers in the social media space need to remember theres a great influx of new readers and minds. They would be better served embracing these people, and making their past content easily available than kvetching about how no one researches.
  8. Old-timers in social media need to realize that innovation and adoption will occur with or without them. History means nothing when people with two years, two months or two days of social media experience are trying to create a solution that will work for their companies and paying clients.
  9. A reality check is in order, too. Dismissing people for lack of social media experience when theyve embraced it 1) pushes them away; 2) reduces the amount of valid real world marketing experience in the process. My blog is two years old. Yet one of my first article assignments professionally in 1994 was on this crazy technology called Mosaic. 15 years of technology PR and marketing experience later, I find this elitist point-of-view to be invalid and insecure.

Collectively we can do more than individually. Collaboration works better than ivory tower development.

My one major concern is that technical form must serve functional need. Great technical toys without purpose dont help us. Web 2.0 has been great, but we need to keep our eye on the prize, which is business function. The SMR has great potential for communications professionals, but its the entire online communications industrys responsibility to participate and help make something that will work.

To continue the discussion, Shannon Whitley has agreed to a Buzz Bin interview. In addition, after SHIFT releases its next version of the SMR template, there will be a roundtable on SMRs hosted on Now Is Gone. Todd Defren, Jason Falls, Maggie Fox, B.L. Ochman and Brian Solis have agreed to participate.

Women Snubbed in Top Ten Speakers List, Industry in General

Women Snubbed in Top Ten Speakers List, Industry in General

In a blog post listing the top ten social media speakers, The Speakers Group (TSG) listed voices for your consideration. Not one of the speakers was a woman, highlighting a much larger social media services industry problem where women are often overlooked for top speaking gigs, and don’t rank as well as men.

Ironically, this topic first came to mind last week when Allyson Kapin a.k.a. @womenwhotech led a spirited DC Media Makers session (pictured below) on the same topic. So when I saw the TSG post, I felt compelled to write. I come to this discussion as someone who organizes BlogPotomac, a successful, regional social media conference that intentionally highlights female speakers; as a blogger who has discussed the social media and PR industrys glass ceiling both in the office and in the blogosphere; and, yes, as a man who speaks frequently on social media.

There are three problems in the TSG post: 1) A lack of transparency and professional responsibility in the blog post itself; 2) the complete snubbing of women in a highly questionable top ten list, and 3) the larger industry issue that conference organizers apparently want male speakers more than women. For those of you who are used to short posts, I apologize in advance. I am going to handle each of these three issues independently.

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire

Stephanie Massler examines how brand enthusiasm impacts media buying on Doe Anderson. Stephanie provides two thoughtful examples and offers five guidelines for an advanced media purchasing framework. These include focusing not on how many people you reach, but in how you are able to connect with your audience. She also suggests focusing on your cost per engagement. Visit Stephanie’s post for her full details and share your thoughts.

Is “trading off people’s feelings for page views and Twitter followers” worth it? Jason Calacanis’ email – posted on Calacanis.com – is a power reminder of the importance of remaining human online. Jason shares his firsthand account of Josh Harris’ story, and he pulls from his own experiences to make a statement that there needs to be more online empathy. Read Jason’s powerful email and remember his words as you contribute online.

Are you looking for additional opinion on the brand winners and losers from the Super Bowl? Rohit Bhargava’s says, “Some of the best campaigns of the Super Bowl season were efforts launched online or that had a significant online component, but the fact remains that many Super Bowl ads simply didnt work this year.” Rohit offers valuable lessons for why the losers failed, and substantiates on why others were successful. Read Rohit’s analysis, and share your own thoughts on Influential Marketing Blog.

“Pop quiz: What was the brand or branded product most often mentioned in social media at the end of last year?” asks Abbey Klaassen of AdAge.com. Abbey shares with her readers those brands which led the internet with the most social media mentions. Abbey’s data was provided by Virtue, and it examined approximately 2,000 brands. It is no surprise that the iPhone topped the list, but see what other brands rounded out the top 50.

(Disclosure: Network Solutions is a client of Livingston Communications) On KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog, Katie looks at how social media, especially Twitter, can be used quickly to take advantage of a marketing opportunity. Katie offers four lessons from Network Solutions Twitter coupon campaign, which ran in response to GoDaddy’s Super Bowl advertisements. Katie says, “Social media offers an incredible opportunity to organizations that listen carefully and can move quickly in response to a Twitstorm.”

On PR Squared Todd Defren asks buyers of PR services to take a different approach when they are not satisfied with their current results. Todd suggests, “If your problems are related to the performance/creativity of your team but not to the agency’s training and capabilities, consider asking for a brand new team, instead of firing your agency outright.” Todd’s point is that part of a successful working relationship is developing chemistry, and a different team within a larger agency may be able to offer a better chemistry.

One Dimensional Social Media Sucks

One Dimensional Social Media Sucks

Ever since Forrester put out its report stating that consumers don’t trust 86 percent of corporate blogs, there have been a plethora of blog check up, and reasons why posts. Here are some of my favorites:

  • A blog should feel like a gift (Kami Huyse)
  • Health Check: How trusted is your blog (Jeremiah Owyang)
  • No News Here (Debbie Weil)
  • On the Other Hand, Maybe Your Company Shouldn’t Blog (Mitch Joel)

In the end, consumers don’t trust corporate blogs because they are one dimensional pieces of propaganda, and no one want to read corporate drivel (see Blog Council post on topic). It sucks!

Really, it’s that simple.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone: Social Media

One dimensional social media is about me, my personal brand (good Conversation Agent discussion here), my company, our products, buy, buy! Note the absence of real world matters, meaningful dialogues about better products or fixing broken ones, discussion of marketplace problems, meaningful macro trends, cross-links, comments or community issues. There is no substance in your average corporate blog, Twitter microblog ,influencer relations effort or Facebook engagement. Heck, for most corporate communicators engaging on that level is like visiting the Twilight Zone.

This is something that gets to the very heart of social media. People are not an audience, they are a community that wants to be engaged, not messaged at! Want to be safe? Publish a newsletter. Want to build relationships and have meaningful dialogue, then stop publishing content and participate!

Participation is marketing, not tossing a bunch of chic advertising agency designed contests at the blogosphere. Creating meaningful calls to actions that people care about, that’s social media engagement. Create environments for people to engage and get out of their way! Help others achieve their needs and wants. Resolve their problems! That’s what companies should do (case studies here and here).

It’s common sense, but it’s not safe. Because it involves risk, it involves putting the company out there, and taking feedback. It means talking about things other than you or your organizational endeavors. It even means being wrong sometimes.

86 percent stinks. I don’t anticipate that changing too much more towards the positive. Why? Because PR, marketing and corporate communications are incapable of performing on the front line. No matter how much smack they talk.