I’m more convinced than ever that social media is merely one in a series of ‘tools’ with which to engage in conversation. I say this at a time when advertising agencies, digital, shops and PR firms alike are battling for every available client dollar being allocated to social media. I say this at a time when PR agencies in particular are stressing out that their advertising and digital brethren will ‘own’ the big social media idea and, hence, the relationship. I say this at a time when two large clients of ours recently pulled us aside and said, ‘Hey, just a heads-up, but you no longer have to worry about only PR competitors calling up to get my business. Now, ad agencies and web designers are doing the same.’ That’ll do a number on one’s getting a good night’s sleep.
It’s all merely subterfuge as far as I’m concerned. A consumer (regardless of whether he is a consumer or B-to-B purchaser) will make a buying decision based upon trust. The recent Edelman Trust Barometer says consumers surveyed now check five distinct sources (digital and traditional alike) before engaging with a brand. That sounds a tad excessive to me. Who has the time to check five distinct sources about anything nowadays? I sure don’t. I think our very own Sam Ford comes much closer to the reality of the situation when he says social media isn’t a silver bullet. It’s merely one part of a brand’s arsenal of communications weapons with which to build trust, become recommended and, eventually, stimulate purchase.
I recently addressed two very different corporate groups on the subject of social media. The first was comprised of 25 ‘next generation’ fast trackers in the corporate communications departments of Fortune 500 companies. They stopped me in my tracks by saying social media wasn’t growing in importance as part of their overall marketing spend, nor was it being seen by the C-suite as a panacea. The second group was composed of human resource managers at very large professional services firms. They had the opposite point-of-view. They’d been told by their executives to figure out what was happening in social media and to ‘get something’ installed for employee communications ASAP.