The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

Times have changed. Or have they? Two years ago, while discussing new and social media with executives, I’d frequently recognize a glimmer of understanding, followed by, “Yeah, but that stuff won’t work in my industry.” Instead of seeing new media as a fundamental shift in how all companies can communicate with their constituents, execs in 2008 considered new/social channels as simple novelty items reserved for Gen-Yers. Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media was written to help execs shift their perception from one of novelty to one of necessity due to massive shifts in how consumers find and consume information.

In 2010, I face another problem, as many execs look at these popular channels with the same lip-smacking anticipation as 1850s prospectors looked at California during the Gold Rush.

Telltale signs of this new phenomenon include:

  • “I need to be on Facebook.”
  • “How do I get on Twitter?”

It’s 1995 All Over Again

The “getting on” strategy isn’t new. As the Web outgrew the confines of universities and geeks, 1995 companies saw the Web page as a cheap alternative to distributing their paper-based brochures. All they needed to do was hire a “webmaster,” create content, and have that person put that content “on the Web.”

Unfortunately, these same companies failed to understand the differences between a paper-page and a Web page–the simple fact that the Web opened a new inbound communications channel to the corporation. For example, one of the first Web mistakes companies made was adding contact information to the bottom of the Web page. The prevailing wisdom of the time was to use More likely than not, this mail address remained unmonitored, creating a black hole for customer complaints to sit and fester.

Companies are making the same mistakes today as they clamor to “be on” social networks, yet still don’t understand the time requirements and ramifications of being “social” and “networking.” Just as the prospectors of the 1850s needed to do more than just move to California, like actually sticking a pan into a stream, companies need to do more than move onto social networks.

Social Media is just the pan. You need to get wet to find the gold

Before deciding to open up powerful communications channels, have the answer to these specific questions:

  • What is the unique purpose of this channel?
  • How does it differ from my other channels (broadcast, print, etc…)
  • What type of content will I be developing?
  • What is the release frequency of such content?
  • How much time am I willing to invest into monitoring and responding to fans and foes?
  • Who is responsible for these channels, a serious business person or Skippy the Intern?
  • Does each channel do something different or am I just repeating the same things in each channel? (blog, Twitter, Facebook, print, broadcast, trade shows, keynote speeches, etc…)?

Until companies see new/social media as a serious media choice, until they can look beyond what’s immediately in it for them as opposed to a more intimate way of communicating with constituents, all corporate new/social media efforts will fail.

Don’t make the same mistakes that your Web 1.0 predecessors did. Put social media into your brand as opposed to putting your brand on social media.

Photo Credit: Library of Congress on Flickr.


Filed under: Social Media


Great post Ron.

Taking the high-level outline you've laid out here down to notch or two and getting very specific: If a business doesn't have the bandwidth to be present, act human, and respond in a reasonable amount of time to replies on Twitter their presence is probably a net negative.

June 17, 2010

I love it when corp folks say that they “don't have the time.” I usually rephrase it to “I don't believe that the effort warrants the time away from other communications activities.”

June 21, 2010

[…] New and social media isn’t a mere novelty—it’s a critical way in how businesses can talk with their consumers. Blogger Ron Ploof says the top-level mentality of just ‘getting on’ the social/new media train isn’t new—in fact, it’s 1995 all over again when the Internet was the place to ‘get on, ’ similar to how prospectors looked at California during the Gold Rush. “Don’t make the same mistakes that your Web 1.0 predecessors did. Put social media into your brand as opposed to putting your brand on social media,” Ploof says. Read more here. […]

How to become a part of the new media gold rush | Rachael Zylstra
June 21, 2010

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.