Friday, August 13, 2010

The Ever Evolving Social Media Bubble

Public Relations are today an important component of any campaign.Whether it was Microsoft launching its Xbox video game player or Windows Xp. Lakme the well known fashion and cosmetics brand has heavily depended on PR for making its presence felt amongst their target audience.Even in crisis Johnson & Johnson  relied a lot on Public Relations to emerge from their Tylenol crisis.

What if social media was there and also used when the above events had come into being, how would it have helped the companies in their campaigns? Well for that, one has to understand this channel. Social media is like that bubble in water that keeps bursting and evolving into more new bubbles.It is not stagnant for a long time in one form.

If we observe in other countries where social media is  heavily used in marketing campaigns, social networking sites like twitter are not really playing a role in promoting brands, look at this article Marketing: Study Says Most Brands Still Irrelevant on Twitter - Advertising Age - Digital

Another issue with social networking sites is the fact that it changes fast.Something new emerges the moment you had just got used to the previous (read old) one.A site which everyone wants to be on today such as Facebook can might as well be a passing fad! People initially were on Orkut. The same have now shifted base to Facebook. Tomorrow there might be another 'networking' site.Read more on this on Can Social Media Be Trusted? These articles come from a world where social networking sites are intesively used by marketeers and people.what is the Indian scene?

We are still learning the tricks of these new channels.In our country celebrities hog twitter more than the common man.Facebook is more of a stress buster and a place where you can openly vent out your feelings about issues.Promotions are still to a large extent ignored, even if some of your friends send you 'invitations' to join 'events' right? Though we do hear of social media being used by consumers as grievance platforms. Blogs are still read but comments are sent on your personal ids and not as comments on the blog, though the follower list may rise.You are told on phone or in person that your blog was well written but not on your blog.Image sites are still used for uploading personal photos as we still use the good old cd or email to send official photos.We are still learning the use of these new channels and  still don't really trust it.So if countries where these media has been used for campaign purposes and it is thought that have a long way to go, imagine how far we are!

So at this stage how much of social media should be recommended to clients? After a small research conducted in a total of more than 100 companies and PR agencies put together I found that this media is highly recommended to clients to promote themselves.More than 50% of respondents use online press release sites to publish their press releases.

The reasons cited for using social media were ease of use, reach was very good, it was obviously a cheaper mode, and audio-video could be used most effectively on these channels (here YouTube).

Though there was one answer which was quite an opposite to what the agencies and the corporate communication departments of the companies thought on.Only 23% of PR practitioners in agencies thought that

giving out information via internet channels will reduce dependence on the print and broadcasting media whereas 49% of the respondents in the corporate communications thought differently!

The audience will be take some more time before they adapt themselves to new media is what more than 15% of the respondents feel when they say it will take more than 10 years, this  appears quite true considering what other countries are going through. 

One thing all of them agree which is a whopping more than 57% ; the fact that social media/new media training is essential to PR practitioners in both agencies and corporates.

The data above only confirms the fact that we need to give some more time to this new medium to catch up both in the minds of audiences as well as to practitioners using this tool for promotion before we either discard or totally adapt to it.