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.
  1. Prediction:

    At some point, corporations will realize that "Social Media" is simply a tool for talking with people -- and that having a different department for just Social Media makes as much sense as having a Department for Dialing Long-Distance, the Committee for E-mail Integrity, and the Corporate Handshake Quality Assurance Team.

  2. Amen. SM is just another channel through which to communicate and connect with stakeholders. It has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, just like every other channel. The sooner we as professional communication consultants recognize this, the sooner we can move forward and incorporate sm strategies and tactics as part of the whole picture and not a stand-alone novelty item.

  3. Great post! I agree with you that the segmentation of "social media" will continue through 2010 and will have a lasting impact on our industry. I hope that companies and agencies learn to fully integrate, train, and utilize social media in greater conjunction with their other proven marketing/public relations activities. I also agree knowing how to use social media tools is not enough. Communications experience (value add) comes from developing, deploying, and measuring a strategy across multiple channels and knowing when to execute. Again, thanks for the great post.

  4. Social Media is most definitely not a separate discipline, and companies that look at it as such will have a hard to understanding that it's just a part of the way we humans communicate now. While I agree with you that certain disciplines will embrace it more than others, there are so many different ways to use these tools that everyone will be using them professionally in some way. Because SM is just a tool, as you said, sales, customer service, marketing, PR, executives, everyone will be using it. We won't be talking about it, we'll just be doing it, and it will become a regular part of day-to-day responsibilities.

    Totally agree about the long-term view, by the way. Social Media requires long-term planning and strategy, not "We have a Facebook page. Done!"

  5. Social Media has almost becomed mainstream for IM'ers

    And also some big companies.

    I'm sure more big companies will utilize it in the future

  6. I agree that social media will take some time for the PR industry to embrace fully. Although many baby boomers are well in tune with SM and its advantages, I think that once they retire we will see more and more firms using these new PR tools. Along those lines, as advertising becomes more expensive as traditional forms of media continue to suffer, SM will become the new way of communicating to publics.

  7. I agree that social media should not be a discipline just for 20-somethings. Those of us in our late 30's and older didn't grow up with technology, and companies can benefit from taking the time to train seasoned professionals so they can benefit from our experience, while having the benefits of social media. Your post is right-on!

  8. Great post by the way as these are the topics people are talking about. Being a 10 year veteran of MSFT, I kind of smile when I hear they are trying to retrofit Sharepoint to be Social.


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