Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2010 Predictions in Social Media

Today, Jennifer Leggio posted a group of people's 2010 social media predictions. She graciously emailed me and asked for my input ... but I was at a loss of what to say (shocker, I know). The PR lesson here is to always jump on requests for information, but at the same time to know what you want to say. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, as I have a lot to say on the subject.

This was hard for me because for the past few years, I have thought that social media was going to disappear and just become part of marketing and communications, that the firms and companies would have finally caught up to us early adopters. Yes, I'm putting myself as an early adopter with a small group of public relations professionals that do not get the recognition they should get for being early: Tom Murphy, Phil Gomes, Mike Manuel, Constantin Basturea and more. If you want to know who you should really be listening to, look at the people that are not talking that much (some of these people do not update much), but are in the trenches.

And, the fact is that social media should not be a separate discipline anymore, nor should it ever have been. Public relations likes to relive its bad decisions over and over again. Back in the dotcom era, PR firms had "online news" teams versus "print teams" ... and it soon crossed over. My main WSJ reporter worked for WSJ Online, but wrote for the paper as well ... when she wrote for the paper, should I have handed off the relationship or stopped talking to her? No, that'd idiocy. So why is social media separate? Isn't it just part of the whole P in public relations? Yah, you don't need a book to know this, it is basic PR skills that we've forgotten.

As for the prediction, I've been wrong so far, but will go with that prediction for 2010, with an asterisk. I think that social media will finally be subsumed by one of the disciplines (public relations, interactive marketing, marketing - one of them) but will still be splintered across the board. Most of the social media mavens and gurus, though, will be finally sniffed out as empty suits, and that will hurt the industry more than most things - for a while, at least.

Social media shouldn't be a special job that is relegated to 25 year olds as they do not have the gravitas or years of experience to understand the deeper issues. No, not an ageist issue, but in public relations there are issues that arise that you need the years of experience to give good, deep thinking, strategic counsel that comes from years of experience ... not being on freaking Facebook or Twitter. It takes the understanding of the whole ecosystem, how social media is affecting public relations, marketing, communications and customer service. It takes the long-term view - not the short-term that is so popular in social media - and understanding what you do today is going to have repercussions in the future.

As for another prediction: the FTC will have wider repercussions than people realize, and will stifle much of the social media outreach done by marketing firms - think giveaways, etc - and will lead to tax implications from the IRS that have not been touched upon so far.

That is something that we - as marketers, public relations, social media, whatever the hell you want to call the discipline - are going to need to really think about. It's about the bigger story, and what might be happening because what the government is doing today. That is what we need to be doing, that is what we need to be thinking about ... and it might not be best held in the hands of people that can only think about social media.