It Is Not A Flippin’ Bandwagon

There is an anecdote making the rounds about a focus group where the moderator turned to an early 20-something and asked, “How often and when are you online?”

In response, the attendee gave him a confused look, pulled out her smart phone, “What do you mean? It is ALWAYS on.”

This is where we live now – and will live every day moving forward. A world changed by connectivity and access; to each other, to brands, to corporations, to issues, to elected leadership.

Articles like this one just published in the Idaho Business Review do a huge disservice to how we as a global culture are interacting, communicating and evolving. (Advertising, PR firms help clients make best use of social media - sorry it is behind a paywall.)

The piece starts off with, “As the social media landscape continues to grow, Idaho business owners may wonder whether they need to jump on the bandwagon. ”

It is not a flippin’ bandwagon.

To call it such minimizes the broader context of what is at stake.

Tools, platforms and technology emerge, grow, gain traction, evolve into something else or die. That is the product lifecycle that has existed since we became an industrialized world.

In the article, several peers in the communication space here in Idaho make the argument that social media doesn’t fit into every public relations strategy.

If you only think of it as a tool, you’re right.

If you truly understand the full context of how communication has changed globally, that is shortsighted and dangerous.

Every organization and individual needs a healthy respect and awareness of where your brand and issues are being built, looked into and attacked – and that is online and interactive. Just as any good business leader develops a business plan that evolves on a quarterly and annual basis and integrates multiple facets of revenue drivers and market opportunities, so should any progressive communicator develop a plan that integrates all aspects of where conversations are occurring. Every client and situation is unique. But all deserve the respect of knowing how the current communication dynamic incorporates so much more than it did 20, 10, or even 2 years ago.

Social media is no longer new or different or separate. It lives right there with you in everything you do. And it is on, 24/7

Now, does that mean every company needs a Twitter feed, an iPhone app or a Facebook contest? Of course not. To suggest that that is the only way organizations engage in our new normal is a bit, dare I say, old school.

Being engaged online means being aware and responsive to conversations occurring about your industry, your brand, your competitors, your trends. It is the ultimate corporate intelligence tool, SWOT analysis source and focus group resource. It provides insights and awareness you would never have otherwise.

Most importantly, if you aren’t aware of the vulnerabilities you fall victim to them.

Your reputation is not just shaped in the newspaper today – it’s being shaped instantly by (often) millions of people who were never exposed to your company even two years ago.  It’s about conversations, so companies and individuals need to decide how they are going to tell their story as part of the conversation and be aware of where those conversations are occurring.

Thinking that you have privacy these days is naive.

We are no longer gatekeepers. Acknowledging that is the first step.

But it is not just outward-facing, it has also changed the way internal/employee communication and recruiting is handled. Social media has become one of the biggest tools in the HR world.  If you are applying for a job, you WILL be researched online.  And, in most cases – if you don’t have a presence in some way, you probably aren’t going to be competitive in the job market or even in the business development game if you are an entrepreneur.   There is rarely a potential client that walks through our doors that does has not done an assessment on where we as a firm exist in the digital world – not just professionally, but personally.

Being a true business counselor to clients requires that we as communication professionals remain alert, at the forefront and progressive in our approach to the evolving landscape. It is our duty to be the devil’s advocate, to challenge assumptions and the status quo ways of doing things.

At the end of the day it is not about choosing this or that, old or new, it is about assessing all of what is at our disposal for the best integrated proactive approach.

- Jess Flynn

(A good friend and great brain, Tac Anderson, is writing about where he believes we are now – the Post Social Age. Take a gander at his blog )