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Social Media is About Staying Relevant

The changing media landscape.  We’re all grappling with it these days, from consumers looking for trusted sources of information to content producers (old school outlets to the bright shiny object outlets) to brands, marketers and the PR gang alike looking to engage consumers.

There isn’t a magic pill or bullet, other than the realization the game has changed and staying on the sidelines won’t just make benchwarmers of us, hoping for a call from the coach to rush the field and show our mettle – it will just make us obsolete.

“If you want to stay relevant, you need to be there,” said Rob Hopwood, Internet content producer and social media specialist at SignOnSanDiego, at our inaugural San Diego Social Media Symposium when talking about how The San Diego Union-Tribune is delving deeper into social media. (Full disclosure, The U-T and SignOn are a client.)

Being there, Hopwood points out, involves exploring the full gamut of social media tools at our disposal, not just throwing up a Facebook or Twitter page.  He, and just about every panelist, drove home the clear message that social media is more than the creation and execution of a couple hip, in-the-now shiny objects and more about investing the time in identifying where your consumers are in the social media spectrum and listening to what they’re saying and want from your brand.

And that’s precisely where most fail – not just in social media, but also in communicating and marketing to consumers, period.  Consumers have too powerful of a voice to be ignored, and the days of only spewing pre-fab messages to them are not waning, they’re dead.

Even old-school journalists are starting to do the same.  In frequent sidebars and small talk with consumer and industry reporters, we’re finding journalists are getting more deeply involved in social media.  They’re spending the time learning what their readers, viewers and listeners want from them, and taking that knowledge back to their editors and producers with compelling arguments on what stories to tell.  They’re using Web analytics to measure their traction, and they’re building their own individual brands while serving the over-arching brand of their employer.  They’re not waiting for their execs to figure out how to monetize the use of Web and social media content, but instead proving the value of these tools (and creating personal job security).  They’re being relevant by being there – listening, experimenting, learning.

The more often old-school journalists strap up in this new playing field, the more balance we’ll see in news reported in social media outlets, and that will only protect their relevancy.  SDSU Professor Tim Wulfemeyer, another panelist, quips that while bloggers and citizen journalists spout off with little verified information, the “legacy media” – as he calls it – will continue to have the wherewithal to vet and verify, even in the age of using social media to reach people.  He also notes that the new FTC guidelines on disclosure will even the playing field – “Like legacy media, social media is all about credibility,” he said.

And that credibility comes with listening to your audience and building a relevant experience that is meaningful to them.

For more insight from the symposium, read “It’s About Genuine Consumer Experiences,” check out the panelist videos and peruse the tweets.

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