Why So Many Are Drawn To Social Media

At the close of last year, B.L. Ochman noted there were more than 16,000 self-proclaimed social media gurus on Twitter alone.  Yet, among the snake oil, there is more than just a handful of talented individuals.  There are even more interested individuals.

There are many reasons why this is.  Let’s consider them:

Marketing dollars are going social

Social media spending is trending to increase to $3.1 billion in 2014 from $716 million in 2009 (representing a compound annual growth rate of 34%).  And while a majority of dollars are still held by traditional channels, passionate communications professionals want to be in an area that is exciting and in growth mode.  Traditional marketing/PR/advertising agencies are bloated and layoffs/cutbacks are everywhere.  It’s just not as exciting a time for that part of the industry.

Also it’s more than the marketing side of things, it’s media too:  traditional is shrinking while digital is in growth mode.  Again, same issue:  traditional media enjoyed their monopoly long enough to suffer from bloat.  Now with an economy tightening its belt and higher accountability (and excitement) offered from digital channels, it’s a no-brainer where the interest exists.

Media influence lives in social channels

What if all your PR could come to you?  It can, the idea of pull PR is highly effective and is your future public relations strategy.  Not only have I seen this strategy work personally, for my employer and for clients, data backs up why:  89% of reporters use blogs, 65% use social networking sites, and 52% use microblogging sites according to a national study by GW University.  In other words:  you can’t be a modern PR pro without tried and tested digital skills.

Social media is…popular

Social media eclipsed search engine optimization in popularity as a search term and never looked back.  It’s the topic and skill set du jour.  Driven by media, bloggers, books, case studies, companies and conferences naturally interest is a by-product.  Due to this, many try to prey upon those interested with things like social media certification or create digital marketing agencies that are almost totally unqualified.  But that’s going to happen with any hot topic and should be neither a surprise nor a concern.  Ultimately smart professionals and clients will do their research and make the right decisions.  And those so ignorant as to fall victim to this?  Who cares.  You ultimately don’t want to work with people so gullible they get taken in, they don’t make good clients anyway.

Many aren’t interested in traditional PR…at all

18% of respondents of a recent digital readiness report said they have no interest whatsoever in traditional PR.  And, for the vast majority of respondents, knowledge of social networks (80%), blogging, podcasting and RSS (87%), and micro-blogging (72%) is either important or very important when it comes to PR and marking hiring.  To exit college armed with traditional PR skills and to be clueless about digital – you’d be lucky if a firm or business even looked at you.

Content marketing spends are increasing

6 in 10 marketers plan on spending more on content marketing in 2010 according to a study by Junta42 – with social media channels being the most popular.  You could easily make the argument all content is social anyway.  If it’s worth sharing/discussing, people will share it and discuss it whether you want that to happen or not.

An entire generation has grown up using digital communications tools

It is amazing the business digital divide is what it is.  My generation grew up without really considering what we were doing was disruptive, innovative, new, or novel.  We’ve been connecting, discussing, debating, and collaborating on digital tools well before an entire vertical of media was born to report on that activity.  It seemed almost like stepping into the past entering a world where digital proficiency is not the norm upon exiting college, but this was what happened to me.  Because of this, many of us saw opportunities to create businesses or provide consulting from the perspective of having an innate understanding of the social web.

Good social media marketing/PR is permission based

Marketing attracts a very different type of person when it switches from interruption/push models to permission/pull models.  It attracts those sick and tired of the traditional methods that were disrespectful of everyone’s time.  It also attracts marketing professionals interested in nurturing an opt-in group with a genuine passion for the subject at hand.  In other words, it is for people who want to give, not take.  Essentially: smart people.

Social media marketing is creative, fun and strategic with no real rules or best practices

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to use social media for marketing and PR purposes.  I wrote on some ideas of social media optimization previously, but thinking about this again, you don’t even need to follow those if you have true creativity and strategy behind what you’re doing.  There are always things you can do to optimize, sure, but if there are any perceived rules that exist, I say break them in favor of something more interesting to stand out.

Conclusion

There are many drawn to social media, and more than enough reasons to encourage this.  Understanding someone’s rationale is important to qualify if they are the digital marketing talent you should hire, if they are a firm worth providing marketing services or if they are someone credible in the industry.  Don’t just ask the what and how, asking the why or motivation behind it can sometimes reveal the most important insights of all.