There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not Twitter and other social networks are great marketing tools or whether they are much ado about nothing. I’m on the side of those who think that social networks are an increasingly important part of the mix.
So here it is. If you’re not incorporating social media — at least in some form — in your own marketing, as well as taking it into consideration in the marketing of your clients, you’re blind spot is showing.
In today’s MediaPost Search Insider, I clicked through to an interesting post about how Twitter and Facebook broke the news about the death of Michael Jackson, while the mainstream media was still scrambling and the mainstream search engines were oblivious.
Loren Baker points to recent events to squash doubts that real-time social media keeps people more informed about breaking news than traditional news outlets — while search isn’t always up to the challenge. When the news broke that Michael Jackson had died from cardiac arrest after being rushed to the hospital, celebrity Twitter streams and Facebook users had the news.
Google Search lagged in breaking news coverage — and Microsoft’s Bing “absolutely failed,” Baker writes. He provides screen shots of search results after the first reports of Jackson’s death: The first three listings in the query “michael Jackson ” on Bing returned information on concert tickets, Wikipedia, and Michael Jackson News — Yahoo Music, respectively.
Sure, you can argue that, while social networks and blogs aren’t held to same journalistic standards as mainstream media and therefore can worry about reporting things quickly rather than reporting them right. However, that argument misses the point. Social networks got it first because they have become such a critical part of the social fabric. It’s just more evidence that we need to take them seriously.
Social networking like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook have become part of the fabric of our culture. You can love them. You can hate them. But you can’t ignore them or dismiss them. As marketers (and unless you are a manufacturing only print business—and who is these days?— you are a marketer), we need to understand and incorporate these media as part of a broader multi-channel strategy. Anyone who writes them off as irrelevant is showing their marketing ignorance.
I look at my own business as a microcosm of the larger issue. Gone are the days when trade magazine bylines alone established your industry credibility. My stature in this industry has become largely influenced by my activity on industry blogs and social networking sites. People contact me on a regular basis because of comments I’ve made on LinkedIn discussion boards. When people ask me for the URL to my blog, I give them my Twitter ID instead.
The major brand marketers aren’t spending millions of dollars developing social networking strategies because it’s a waste of money. They are making the investment because this is where the eyeballs are, both business and consumer. If you want to know where the movers and shakers of this industry are, you can find them in the social networking world. If they aren’t there in person, they have people monitoring the social networks for them. There is a reason for it.
When Twitter and Facebook get the Michael Jackson news first, it’s a wake-up call to the rest of us. If we’re not paying attention to social networks—if we’re not incorporating them into our own marketing strategies and the strategies of our clients—we’re making a huge marketing mistake.