Social media channels are a part of the communications mix. They’re not the be-all and end-all

Some people have got extremely excited about the rapid rise of social media over the last few years.

While I share their excitement – social channels are here to stay – I don’t believe they’re going to usurp some ‘traditional’ media channels in terms of global importance.

For every Huffington Post, there’s still a Guardian. It’s no surprise to me that a recent study showed that the most retweeted stories are those which originated from a ‘professional’ news-source.

Where social media campaigns have worked extremely well (think Old Spice Man, or even Meerkats), it’s tended to be because those ‘social’ campaigns – while brilliantly conceived and executed – have also been kickstarted, often with either a mix of paid-for and word-of-mouth/PR campaign, which deliberately targets people with a disproporionately high social media footprint. Many of whom (unsurprisingly) are either celebrities with high Twitter-follower numbers, ‘traditional’ media channels (again, because of the authority they bring, as well as the numbers), or social media heavy-hitters themselves. With great content, and great seeding comes great numbers.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule (e.g. Sony’s Bravia campaign, which arguably kick-started an industry trying to replicate their success), but social media successes rarely operate in complete isolation. And social media crises (think Eurostar) also rarely operate in isolation – they soon get picked up by ‘traditional’ outlets, which escalate things at a different pace, and often to a very different audience.

The best way to plan use of social media, is therefore never to do so in isolation. For either publicity generating, or reputation-defending, the team responsible for overseeing social media within an organisation must include representatives from customer service, marketing, corporate comms, PR and even HR and legal. It’s the other channels which often take a social media campaign beyond a bubble, and into the big wide world

(Disclaimer – I’ve recently worked with both Sony and Eurostar on publicity generating/reputation-defending work respectively)