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.