“I Cannot Tell A Lie” — If George Washington’s Quote Applied to Social Media and Public Relations

By Gerard Braud

georgewashingtonYet one more group of public relations and marketing professionals has asked me to speak at their PR & Marketing conference about the wonderful ways social media will allow them to connect and sell to their customers. I love to speak at conferences, but I cannot tell a lie, especially about social media and the return on investment (ROI) for companies.

I cannot tell you to use social media for positive ROI without talking about the negative ROI.

Too many PR and marketing professionals still mistakenly think social media is their magic bullet. The truth is, one size does NOT fit all. One company may get great ROI through social media while other companies will generate zero buzz or attraction.

The reality is, one should never talk about the positive side of social media for sales and marketing without talking about the negative effects of social media. It can destroy an organization’s reputation, which then negatively affects the revenues. Social media is a dangerous double-edged sword that cuts both ways. I’ve spoken at many conferences which focus too heavily on social media marketing, without full consideration of the “the big picture.”

Some organizations and brands are a perfect fit for social media. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Chobani Yogurt, which benefited from a huge love fest on social media from people who first discovered the product when it first appeared on store shelves a few years ago. Their following developed organically and the company benefited from the loyalty of their customers.

This might not be as true for a bank, hospital, electric company, oil company, etc.

One needs to consider the demographics of the social media audience. Chobani is a darling for the social media active 18 – 32 age group, especially among females.

facebook-like-buttonMeanwhile, many of my clients in the rural electric cooperative sector are in communities consisting of primarily older residents who are less active on social media and who are not constantly using their iPhones for calls, texting, and social media. Many are farmers and ranchers who are working the fields all day and not sitting in front of a computer, laptop, tablet or phone. Also, the rural residents who are young and active on social media don’t want to talk about, or follow, or “Like” their rural electric company, their bank, their hospital, or any of the other industries that don’t understand the true nature of social media.

Despite the success of Chobani on social media, when Chobani had a product recall recently, their brand got beat up by their detractors. Meanwhile, my rural electric co-ops, which get little traffic in good times, get a significant increase in traffic during their crisis events, especially when there is bad weather and a power outage.

In the world of social media, too much focus is on Facebook and Twitter, with not enough emphasis on YouTube and videos, which then requires photographic skills and trained spokespeople. In the world of social media, younger folks are leaving Facebook for Instagram and Pinterest. These forms of social media are even more difficult to use for ROI and sales for service industries, while it might be the best marketing for chic consumer brands. In the word of Twitter, only 16% of the population uses it, which makes it hard to use to reach customers, yet it is widely used by the media during a crisis.

Gerard Braud Audience 11In talking about social media one must be careful that young sales, PR & Marketing professionals who use social media daily, think the entire world is ready to embrace social media. The hypocrisy is that they want to market and sell their companies using social media, while the reality is that they have no personal desire to follow a bank, hospital or electric company on social media. A sales, marketing or PR person is doing a disservice to their organization to think they can significantly generate new customers and spread the world about new lines of business without recognizing that:

a) the demographics may not support their belief

b) the “sexiness” of the product may not support their beliefs

c) social media may have a greater negative impact on ROI than it has a positive impact on ROI.

The reality may be that they cannot justify the investment of their time in social media.

So… yes, I can customize a program for your conference if it is focused on all aspects of social media – the good, the bad and the ugly — but I cannot do a program that tells the audience social media is a rosy, wonderful world.

I cannot tell a lie.

 

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