Winning the Turf War

As 21st century consumers with more money in our back pockets (though it might feel the reverse), we all like to ‘own’ things. Whether it’s owning our own cars, own houses or own gadgets, ownership has given us a sense of purpose. That is until now. The economic recession has forced a rethink of the concept of ownership, challenging the values that govern this very word.

Now, that might be a farfetched analogy for the day-to-day working of communications folk, but when it comes to “ownership” of social media, synergies can be drawn.

Opinions on the question of social media ownership are as mixed as they are compelling. Those in the marketing camp fiercely defend the rights of marketing folk to lead customer-facing activities. Those in the PR camp argue that great social media is powered by great content and communicators, by the very nature of their work, create shedloads of good content – whether it’s articles, opinion pieces, videos, Infographics – I could go on…

Whilst there is definitely truth in both, neither holds the complete answer in my opinion. Social media is definitely blurring the lines between PR and marketing but as PR people, now’s the time for us to play our strongest hand as natural collaborators and relations-hip builders to secure territory in the social media turf war.

Social communities have a tendency to reject the commercialisation that goes hand-in-hand with marketing. And therein lies the problem. PR on the other hand, guided by its experience with earned media, is well placed to offer social communities compelling content.

Social communities, by being active online, are for the first time opening the floodgates for organizations to participate in their lives in a way never before possible. Think of Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Twitter or even Pinterest, all of these channels make it easier for brands to interact subliminally with current and potential consumers in a way that traditional media has never perhaps quite facilitated.

But just as these floodgates have opened, they can easily slam shut. All it takes is for communicators to over-commercialize their content at the detriment of good quality social media engagement. I like to think there are three key points to remember:

  1. Be human – social media channels should be about facilitating dialogue and interaction, not somewhere you should push out bog-standard corporate literature. Adopt a tone of voice for your brand that lets followers know you’re ready to listen to them.
  2. Avoid jargon – it’s true that your followers or community members may look to your brand as a thought leader but avoid sounding pretentious or impersonal. Speak the language of your followers – adaptability is key.
  3. Be informative – Share information which demonstrates your expertise and knowledge as a brand but be wary of over-communicating. We all like to learn new things but remember, relevance drives resonance

So as I conclude, I wonder if this post should be less about ‘winning’ the turf war and more about ‘sharing’ common ground. The best social media programs will combine the audience insight and targeting of good marketers and the content / relationship-building of good PRs.

The fact that the very medium in question is built around collaboration is perhaps the irony of this entire debate.