My Communications Director is old school. He knows that social media drives a lot of what his work is and understands its importance, but he’s no big fan. He knows, too, that I think it’s the future of how we will communicate, so he takes no small pleasure in telling me that social media going away. He sends me every media article that demonstrates how Facebook or Twitter are dying and kids today prefer to gossip via smoke signals. I protest and tell him that social media use has increased by 800% percent in the last eight years (!!!Wow!!!) and that I can see him aging in front of me. It’s our thing, I call him a dinosaur and he calls me johnny-come-lately.
But then I saw this sublimely titled article, Why Social Media Will Disappear, and it definitely caused me to stop and think. The idea behind this article isn’t specifically what my Comms Director rails about, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what he actually means. Social media is going away. The thing, though, is that media relations is going away, too. So is outreach and ultimately public information. (Gasp!)
And by going away, I mean going away from how they’re currently done. Right now, we deal with each area separately. We do media relations, then stop and turn on our social networks. When that’s done, we start working on public outreach. As my good friend Patrice says, this is the Age of Social Convergence. All of those separate, disparate, specially sourced, funded and hired roles will become one. We will do media relations and regulatory community outreach both via social media. Reporters will get notified about breaking news at the same time as the public.
As traditional media becomes social, all media will just be “media.”
That “social media ninja” that clucks at your agency’s media-centric outreach is in just as much danger of becoming outdated as you. Your agency might not be as tech-savvy as they need to be, but that fellow isn’t as mass media-savvy as he needs to be. And none of us are as experienced at risk and crisis communications as we should be.
So, where does this leave us? Happy that austerity is forcing us to learn everyone else’s job? (Probably not.) How about excited about the opportunities that we will be faced with to rethink our relationships with each type of communication? I’m already rethinking our relationship with the media, salivating at the possibility of directed public notification, relationship building with information super-spreaders, the list goes on!
Moving forward, don’t invest solely in social media any more than you would solely invest in media relations. Take what you are good at today and figure out where you can supplement that expertise. Think of novel ways to combine them. Become the industry leader in that industry that doesn’t–yet–exist.