It's About Why, Not How

Watching the BlogWell discussions, I started having discussions with Tom Biro, Kevin Dugan, Anna Lingeris and Amybeth Hale discussed various points on social media. One of the points brought up is that social media should be about the why, not the how - and that there needs to be more strategy and tactics.

That made me think back to when I met Anna at BlogHer Food last year - Anna Lingeris - and fell in love with her because: she's loud and not afraid to shout out what we're all thinking (it's gotta be the Greek side); she works for Hershey's and Scharffen Berger; she likes college football; and, well, come on, she's a cute blonde. Plus, now I get to tease her as she is one of the sharper minds that sees how social media and public relations co-exist and what can be done for companies.

At BlogHer Food, though, I was talking to the head of Smucker's and telling him about my childhood memories of Smucker's Goober's PB&J in the jar (best invention ever). That as a little kid, that's what my Mom bought, and we'd end up eating it out of the jar. And, that we still do take a spoon and eat out of the jar. I think he was sorta grossed out by that, but he said that that's a great story.

So Anna handing out chocolate at BlogWell made me think about that: when we lived in Michigan, my Dad would sometimes come home with the really big bar of Hershey's with almonds. It was a special treat for us (makes us sound like some poor Depression family, huh?) mainly because we weren't a big sweets family (okay, some of us like sweets so there weren't much in the house). So for me, childhood relates to food, such as Goober's, Hershey's and the occasional mud pie from Baskin and Robins. Those are happy memories.

While social media is all fun and good, does it generate anything beyond discussions? Are there memories built from social media that will take people back to another time? Or is it more for adults to talk amongst themselves, share anecdotal stories and other things like that, but not much? Social media does create friendships - I have met many great women at BlogHer and consider a bunch of them friends - and know they think the same, but those relationships are definitely cemented from real world interactions, beyond the social mediasphere.

We all know the how in social media. It's this tool and that tool and this network and that network. But there is still the why - why are companies going to get involved in social media? Why is tool A or tool B the right tool for the job, and what do they hope to get out of it? What is the ROI / end goal for the company, and "being part of the discussion" is really not enough ... or have none of none of us learned that lesson from Nestle, who wanted to be part of the discussion - twice - and both times run into the bully platform of social media? (No, I'm not on the condemn Nestle bandwagon, but pointing out that being part of social media is not enough without a full commitment - and that is really not enough of a good reason to be involved in social media).

The issue for corporations right now is you have a ton of social media speakers - many who have no public relations or marketing backgrounds, but have (for some odd reason) been labeled social media and community geniuses - that come in full guns blazing about how to do social media. That is worthless, and does not help companies. Ask them why, and see if they can talk about any past successes - real successes that point to an agreed upon ROI and results - and then judge if what they are talking about would work for your business. And if that includes a Chatroulette, well it better be one helluva great idea.

And, at the end of the day, real world experiences are still going to trump online experiences. So factor that into your social media plans ... or really, your public relations plans.

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11 comments

  1. Well said, Mr. Pepper. And for the next generation, all the social media hype won't be about this tool or that tool. It will just be a very organic part of the way they give and get information/products. Like my generation and the computer.

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  3. Happy to have been a muse for you Jeremy :) I do feel compelled to point out something - while I agree with you that there are too many social media geniuses out there who shouldn't be labeled as such, I don't think it's a fair assessment to say that the 'real' ones should come from either a marketing or a PR background. I'm sure that it wasn't your intent to say so. I think that people from all backgrounds can learn and embrace the good marketing and PR practices that make one a good, knowledgeable resource in social media practices. My boss (http://www.recruiterguy.net), who comes from a retail and recruiting background, is quite knowledgeable of good social media strategy. Of course I may be biased :) but I think anyone who knows him would agree.

    Thanks for posting this - education is the key to understanding and will unlock that door to the 'how' :)

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  4. George Seybold4/08/2010 11:28:00 PM

    Social Media should be leveraged as a catalyst for conversation; and igniter of thought and relationship. The trick is to move the conversation offline and establish a personal relationship built upon trust. It's not as much about what you say, although one should add value, but more about how you engage others to develop authority on topic and trust.

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  5. This was so refreshing to read! As a PR student, I'm constantly hearing from the "real" PR people about who's who in social media. People tend to think that commenting back and forth or tweeting at one another is grounds for a relationship. I see it the way you do. While interaction online is fun, interesting and often educational, it doesn't mean you really know that person at all. In this Web 2.0 world, I'm afraid that a lot of PR pros are getting away from the idea of face-to-face communication. It's important that we don't substitute a RT for a handshake these days. And if you're really focusing on the "why" of a PR campaign, I think that will always lead you back to the real world at the end of the day.

    Also, I thank you for the strong urge to run over to Walmart for a Hershey bar right now.

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  6. Great post Jeremy! I appreciate your honesty. Every PR practitioner should deeply think about being genuine and not focus ALL their efforts on social media. Face time does count! It goes back to the "old" adage--social media is a tool, not a strategy.

    Thanks for keeping us all in line!
    -Sarah Lilly

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  8. Great post. I think many people are getting carried away by the possibilities of social media online. In this generation, I have noticed that some people tend to lose sight that interactions should be happening in real life in addition to online. I agree with you when you say memories are created from real life. People need to remember that sitting at a computer on the internet (although useful) is not, or should not be the focal point of life. Thanks!

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  9. With the growth of social media over the past few years, I believe that many companies are trying to jump into the business without really knowing the tactics or strategies behind social media tools. This causing many of their efforts to be a lost cause. Like you, I believe it is important for the company to understand the meaning behind their social media tactics and what they are going to accomplish by using each tool. Thanks for the advice.

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  10. Hi Jeremy-
    I stumbled across this post today and I thought it was very interesting. I am in the generation of social media, being a PR student about to graduate in the next year or so. Social media seems to be so important in our field and I've been learning all the ins and outs. However, you're right when you say that no one's going to think back to some post they left or some Tweet that got lots of people tweeting. Social media is like being able to talk the talk, not walk the walk...
    It gets me to thinking then that in order to be successful in PR the tangible, real world experience skills are as vital, and maybe more so, than being really good on a computer.
    Thanks for the words of wisdom!

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  11. Hi Jeremy-
    I stumbled across this post today and I thought it was very interesting. I am in the generation of social media, being a PR student about to graduate in the next year or so. Social media seems to be so important in our field and I've been learning all the ins and outs. However, you're right when you say that no one's going to think back to some post they left or some Tweet that got lots of people tweeting. Social media is like being able to talk the talk, not walk the walk...
    It gets me to thinking then that in order to be successful in PR the tangible, real world experience skills are as vital, and maybe more so, than being really good on a computer.
    Thanks for the words of wisdom!

    ReplyDelete