Why should we be wary of jumping on the social media bandwagon for PR campaigns
Only a few years ago, having a website was seen as the new essential tool for all businesses.
You may be old enough remember these early websites – I certainly am.
Details about what companies did were neatly turned into little descriptors that fitted within our web designers’ templates.
Things usually kicked-off off with a ‘home’ page, and then an ‘about us’ button. Pages and buttons usually grew and were developed from there.
A whole industry of web designers and SEO experts were born and vinyl lettering companies had to order in crate-loads of extra Ws.
This was the start of the dot-com revolution.
We all embraced it. And we are still embracing it.
Many fortunes were made and many businesses saw huge growth, the likes of which could only have been imagined in previous decades.
But I’m worried for those of us whose companies were not called Amazon or eBay.
What we created, in many cases, were websites that simply homogenised how our business looked. To stand out from our competitors, our web designers would perhaps recommend a pop-up window.
These quickly became unfashionable and we were told to have simple, clean-looking pages that would once again raise us above our competitors, both in terms of rankings and success.
Content? Who cared?
Our websites were getting ever-funkier and we could sell to people on the other side of the world while we were asleep.
But I’ve always worried that, for many of us, this was an exercise in style-over-substance.
And this style was driven by factors that didn’t actually help our businesses.
It was almost like we were ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ simply to keep our marketing departments happy, and our web designers in new loafers.
Where our effort and time could have been spent showing how different or unique our businesses were, we were instead designing a digital presence for them that, more-or-less, made them look like everyone else’s.
We were then left wondering how on earth we could get our message about our USPs to our clients.
And now, and this is the really worrying bit, there’s been another shift.
You may have noticed that some companies don’t have a website anymore. Any many that do don’t update it very often, preferring, instead to concentrate their efforts on their social media channels.
This shift, I believe, is further homogenising our wonderfully, creative and exciting businesses into a free-for-all that has now become a quest for ‘likes’, ‘reach’, ’shares’ and ‘follows’.
To maximise these numbers experts in social media, perhaps the very same people who once designed our home pages, are now telling us how they think the likes of Facebook want us to post, what to write and when to write it.
If we follow these prescriptive ways to engage with fellow social media users surely our voice will not be heard among all those who are crafting the same messages in the same way for the same reasons.
And in the long-run are we not just playing the tune that the social media channel wants us to play in order to increase their own audience, influence and profits?
Every time we engage with our social media networks I think it’s vital to question who is getting the most benefit – our businesses or the worryingly Big Brother-like corporations that are steering and controlling our online behaviour.
As a child, I can remember getting into trouble after doing stupid things that I’d seen my friends do.
Once found out, which I always was, my parents would say to me: “If ‘so-and-so’ asked you jump off a cliff, would you?”.
So, are we all being like lemmings as we plunge all our efforts into social media?
I, for one, update my Facebook and Twitter accounts far more often than I do my website.
And I doubt I’ll be brave enough to delete any of my social media accounts any time soon.
Social media does have a place in business, you could argue that it’s as essential as a website once was.
My company helps to manage some of our clients’ social media channels and we do this very well.
But I think it’s vital that while we continue to question all online promotion for us and our clients.
And occasionally, unless you want to be swept along with all your competitors it might be a good idea to swim against the tide.
So as part of our clients’ PR strategy, we believe that getting coverage in newspapers; column inches – remember them?, magazines and even exposure on the radio are still vitally important even if some millennials view this as old fashioned.
So, I thought I’d use this blog to reveal my concerns about the Orwellian way in which so many of our social media networks are encouraging us to blindly cascade over a precipice into a sea of mediocrity.
Where will I post this? On Facebook and Twitter of course, oh and on my website too!