A definition of social media

Today, as part of a panel discussion, I was asked to define social media. Here’s what I came up with (it may be a bit formal):

Social media is a democratic, transparent and conversational way for people and organizations to interact and build relationships and communities of mutual benefit – usually online.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and suggestions.


New survey reveals who’s getting social

In their new Social Media Reality Check, Canada Newswire and Leger Marketing teamed up to conduct Canadian social media research on various topics such as usage, trends and practices.

While the full results will be made public in a webinar on April 29 (SMRC link above), they released key findings at mesh 2009, including:

  • 61 per cent of consumers use social media when researching purchases
  • 42 per cent of the 45+ crowd on social media are likely to do online research for purchases
  • Facebook is the most popular social media tool in Canada (77 per cent of respondents); followed by YouTube (65 per cent) and MySpace (20 per cent)
  • 63 per cent of consumers get some of their news and information from social media sites
  • 62 percent of PR practitioners ‘use social media at least once a day’ – (hopefully, some of that is being conducted for work)
  • 70 per cent of PR practitioners ‘do not have a tool to monitor social media’

A couple of things jumped out at me.

I’m not surprised an increasing number of boomers are turning to social media (i.e. it’s not just for kids). However, that says brands targeting an older demographic shouldn’t ignore social media because they believe their audience isn’t participating (nor should they switch to ALL online tactics, either). It does say we should consider social media as part of an overall communications strategy designed to reach boomers.

From a PR perspective, I’m surprised that 70 per cent of practitioners feel they don’t have a tool to monitor social media. Right now there are a number of really good options available including Google, Technorati, Postrank, Radian6 and Twitter search, to name just a few. Sure, there’s no ONE source we can turn to – but is there for MSM monitoring? I think it’s incumbent on the profession to invest in finding out the best combination for a client’s or organization’s needs.

The good news is the results reinforce what many of us already know: social media is becoming more important to consumers and, as a corollary to the PR profession.

However, rather than blindly jumping on the bandwagon and simply adding it to our communications toolbox, we need to continue to educate ourselves, spend time testing, learning and evaluating, sharing case studies and best practices, and being transparent and ethical in all our programs.

In doing this, I hope and believe the PR profession can continue to establish ourselves as social media thought, strategy and practice leaders.

My mesh…

I’ve had a chance to reflect on mesh 2009 and a few things struck me:

  • The keynotes really stood out, especially the one by Toronto’s Mayor David Miller. He was funny, articulate, self-effacing and honest. He responded to questions quickly and credibly; spoke in plain English. He was not your typical politician by any means. That was refreshing. And while he can never please everyone, he seems open to a dialogue and new ideas (demonstrated in part by his presence on Twitter ). It appears as if he has a long term technology-based vision for Toronto; imagining the city as a creative and business hub; one that offers residents easy access to useful information/data and a viable feedback mechanism with which to engage the city. I wish him luck. Also, whoever is responsible for his PowerPoint’s does a great job with graphics.

Mike Masnick, with his concrete poetry approach to slides and ‘button-down’ case studies, comes a close second (you can download his presentation and see for yourself).

  • I didn’t get as much out of the panels this time around. Yes, some of them had lively discussions, but for those of us who are actively involved in social media, many seemed a bit too tactically focused. Especially since we’re finding out about and sharing the latest trends, apps, etc. on Twitter or other web 2.0 platforms. I’d like to see more MSM and well-informed critics involved in the panels as a way of sparking some fresh thinking.
  • Social media, like its name says, is all about people – and the ones I met and had an opportunity to talk with were intelligent, passionate and open. I had too many great conversations to note them all here, but I want to call-out Bryan Person, who I enjoyed meeting in person. Have a listen to Bryan’s post-mesh podcast for a Canadian perspective (and thanks for including me).

And thank you to the mesh organizers for putting it all together again.

The RfP speed-date

If you work in PR or communications (or any agency, for that matter), you’ve probably done lots of RfPs. In the current economy, it seems like there are more of these every day.

Now, I’m happy to jump through all the hoops necessary to win a good piece of business, especially if it’s a brand I admire.

However, think how much time we spend creating standout strategies and creative ideas that never see the light of day. Because when you get right down to it, there’s a lot of agency talent out there and the final decision is usually based on chemistry or fit.

And that’s OK. It’s a big part of what relationships are all about.

Which is why I’d like to propose a new 10-step agency selection model:

The PR RfP speed-date

Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Client does online research to determine which agencies look the most promising.

Step 2: Client rents a neutral venue, buys a bell, selects a date and invites said agencies (no more than six) to an hour-long event. Client provides agency with a one-pager on the organization listing business challenge, goals, objectives, culture and budget.

Step 3: Agencies arrive and the venue and are each seated at a table. Client welcomes everyone and makes introductions (we probably all know each other anyway).

Step 4: Client then moves to table one, spending up to 10 minutes meeting with agency, asking questions, listening to agency’s response.

Step 5: Bell rings. Client moves to next agency.

Step 6: Repeat step 5 until process is over.

Step 7: At the end of the hour, agencies leave and client selects the top two.

Step 8: Based on what my friend Julie Rusciolelli suggests with potential new hires, client invites two agencies out to dinner (separate nights) to get to know them better and talk strategy and ideas. No presentations, everything off the cuff.

Step 9: Client makes selection and informs both agencies.

Step 10: Client and agency begin working together – (i.e. formal engagement).

Done right, the entire process should take no more than two weeks, and, while I can’t offer guarantees, my gut tells me everyone will be happy with the results. (And, if not, it’s easy to start over or to try number two.)

OK, for those who don’t know my sense of humour, yes, I’m joking (but only half). It makes you wonder if there isn’t a better process for clients and agencies to successfully pair up.

And if any clients want to try an experiment, Palette is in. Meanwhile, bring on the next RfP.

What do you think?