Thursday, March 18, 2010

Social Media Might have Value, After all -- If you Understand How to Use it

As a skeptic about the value of social media for most entities, I am now prepared to disagree to some extent with the perspective expressed by many entrepreneurs in the today's article in the Wall Street Journal called "Entrepreneurs Question the Value of Social Media". In the article entrepreneurs have been disappointed in the cost/benefit of social media campaigns. They thought they could accomplish the same kind of impact an expensive ad campaign.

The misunderstanding about social media that leads to this disappointment is that many believe they can emulate the impact of a big, expensive ad campaign by using social media. There are always exceptions to every rule, but we at Roeder-Johnson believe this is the wrong way to look at social media. Once in awhile a company will be able to mount a relatively inexpensive social media campaign that gets them much more attention than they would get for the equal amount of ad spending. But most of the time, that kind of thing doesn't happen.

So what is the value of social media?

The Value of a Blog

There are certainly some blogs that have become the "modern day press". That is, they include headlines and journalistic (or not) articles that a lot of people read and provide news that is broadly disseminated. Some examples of that in the technology world are TechCrunch, VentureBeat, GigaOm, and others. There are also some in the general press that serve that purpose.

That's not what we are talking about here. For most entities a blog can fall into one of two categories:

*For most organizations, a blog is what we call a "living brochure". It provides customers, audiences, influencers, etc. an ongoing perspective on the views, facts, experiences, questions, etc. of an entity. As such, reading the blog can give interested parties a much greater and more timely understanding than a document or two that are created once a year.

*Some of these blogs can also serve a slightly broader role of helping to educate key constituents about issues of broader interest. These are blogs that might influence a well-informed special interest group, but wouldn't necessarily get really broadbased attention.

The Value of Twitter (or microblogging) is as a replacement for the "Trade Press."

A lot of people I know are VERY skeptical about Twitter. I am too, mostly. However, the real point about microblogging is that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to have the impact that Ashton Kutcher accomplished.

*But we believe that the real value of microblogging for small businesses and other emerging entities is as a replacement for what has been traditionally known as "trade press". Because of the fundamental breakdown of most media economics, it has become harder than ever to get to special interest groups. We believe this is where an important piece of microblogging is going. And when coupled with a helpful blog and/or an effective web site, it is likely that it can create a pretty effective way to influence key audiences. By the way, we don't suggest that Tweets should be meaningless blather. But rather should be 140 character calling cards to provoke new and interesting ideas and appeal to key targets. A well implemented Twitter strategy is just as strategic as any other kind of communications.

Admittedly, this is an education in progress. We will keep you posted as we think we learn more.

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