Fresh eyes

Why social media isn’t always so social

why social media isn't always social

Published by Michael Gregory,
Director at Freshfield

There is no doubting the power of social media as a communications tool. It can help raise funds (as seen with the remarkable Stephen Sutton’s fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust), highlight important issues, keep you in touch with friends and family, and bring you into contact with like-minded people to share useful knowledge.

This is not to mention the hugely entertaining pastime of looking at pictures of cute cats with toast on their heads, or watching drunken people fall over.

On the flip side it can make people famous (or infamous) for all the wrong reasons, be a tool for amplified moaning, be divisive and provide people with a platform to spout abuse, and, in tragic cases, drive people to suicide.

Look up not down

Ironically, I watched a viral video which is doing the rounds called ‘look up not down’ and it made me realise how we are all tied to our computers, phones and tablets. When I drove to work the next day, I realised how school kids at bus stops were preoccupied with their phones as were the adults.

We’re losing the art of conversation and the importance of talking face-to-face to people. It’s quicker to cultivate relationships and your point of view is understood a lot easier. Of course, we are increasingly time-poor, so social media does have its merits, but  tweets and status updates can sometimes be misunderstood and then cause confusion, upset or anger. Not forgetting the amount of time it takes to manage social media channels.

In addition, our once ‘pure’ social channels are being bombarded by brand messages which can act as a barrier to the content you’re interested in. Princeton University recently stated that social media channels are losing their appeal and predicted that Facebook will lose approximately 80 per cent of its users by 2017.

Key messages to target audiences – keeping it simple

Of course, there is a place for social media in the marketing mix and at Freshfield we advise many of our clients on social media strategy and tactics.

However, I think it can be damaging to be tied to social media 24/7. I’ve recently returned to reading a paper at the weekend as it’s a bit of time I savour – some peace and quiet with a cup of coffee and a chance to read quality content with no interruptions. Not forgetting it won’t run out of battery, need updating, or if I spill my brew won’t have a meltdown.

Similarly, some of the most effective results we have generated for clients in recent times have come from traditional PR and marketing tactics, such as events and face-to-face briefings.

All of this provides a welcome reminder that it’s best not to put all your communication eggs in the social media basket. Think about who you want to contact and what is the best way to engage with them. Don’t use an impersonal device to get over your personality. As someone once said…it’s good to talk.

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