Let’s examine the recent history of public relations, social media and SEO as we have entered a somewhat new frontier for today’s marketing and information sharing landscape.
For starters, social media is no longer just for “early adopters” or young 20-somethings looking to waste time online browsing meaningless videos, reading and commenting on gossip stories on blogs and forums, or sending pictures back and forth of the most recent weekend shindig where “Jane” was walking around smashed with a .25 BAC hitting on every guy that moved. No, social media has grown up and the business and traditional media worlds have taken notice even though they may not have mastered exactly how to effectively engage.
Public relations has also evolved to include a lot more social media, and it has given credence to the blogosphere, something it once dismissed snottily as “yellow journalism.” Since newspapers are, by and large, a dying breed with only the well-funded and high quality outlets surviving, it is very interesting to take a stroll down memory lane to remember the “good old days” where newspapers were one of the major sources of current events and news. Now, the blogosphere has its own “superstars” that handle themselves much like their own PR firms in order to guard their precious blogs from contamination by the leeches and parasites that frequently approach them in an attempt to pitch a story in hopes of attracting more eyeballs to their own cause which is typically to sell something without putting in a lot of work along the way.
Now, with sites like Twitter infiltrating the entertainment, sports, media, and general public’s psyche more and more each day, what happened just three hours ago seems like old news anymore. The old guard appears to be more on their heels than ever before trying to figure out what to do next to save their rear ends. It wasn’t too long ago that Twitter was considered a fad that would die a quick death much in part because it was not generating revenue. Today, it would be awfully difficult to remove Twitter because it has become such a popular communication vehicle which also connects people from all across the globe so effortlessly while forcing them to get to the point quickly (never a bad thing). That’s not to say that Twitter has to remain a free service especially if you believe all the prognostications although yours truly thinks there’s another way to monetize it outside of charging its user base. For example, one doesn’t have to look back too far into the history books to realize e-mail still has not successfully transitioned into a pay service as so many “experts” envisioned for so many years.
The question begs, where is all this headed? And what do we do with all of it once we get there? Are we headed to a communications’ Armageddon of sorts (laughs)? Is there another social service just around the corner that none of us know about now that will become the next Twitter? Will that service change our lives and make communication even easier as our new good friend Twitter has done? As a communications medium, social sites have brought us a long way in an extremely short period of time.
Now, gander back to the beginning of search engines — they’ve only been around 12 to 15 years — look at how much they’ve become intertwined in our daily lives. What did we ever do before search engines came around? We had to drag ourselves to the library and do some good old fashioned research by starting with the card catalog. (Aside: Do kids in school today still reference a card catalog?) Chances are, in another 10 to 15 years we will probably look back in amazement and laugh at how archaic search engines are because there will be some newfangled website, medium or gadget that is much more efficient than Google. Anybody remember when Excite, Dogpile, or Inktomi were prominent search engines? Much the way cell phones revolutionized telephone communications then the iPhone came along and revolutionized cell phones, there will be something come down the pike soon that revolutionizes search, and we’ll all be the better for it although who is to say what it’ll be?
Yes, media power has shifted, but things aren’t really that different if you think about it. People have simply adapted their information consumption habits, and those with a voice that is congruent with their audience gain a following while the traditional and stuffy outlets lose favor. Remember when black and white televisions used to be a “luxury item” way back when then came along color televisions? Now we have flat panel HD-TVs dominating the electronics’ scene so it’s not so much that people aren’t interested in the same things they have always been, they’re just doing it in a different fashion. Those businesses and outlets that can adapt quickly and efficiently will stand to gain a lot while those that hold onto their old school mentalities and beliefs will be left behind much like the good old transistor radio and black and white boob tube.
Where are you and your business in the social media landscape today? Are you in the pool or still resisting jumping into the shallow end in fear that the water is too cold?