social media: new tool, same function

Hot on the news that major Facebook stakeholders are selling stock below the hyped valuation, news that bodes really well for that whole Web 2.0 revolution and makes one thing that perhaps things have been a bit overhyped, comes a not-at-all-backed-up-by-numbers article that attempts to claim that social media jobs are here to stay.

The article was timed about as well as an Al Gore pronouncement on global warming…and was, predictably, ripped by Valleywag.

Of course, any article that makes claims like “Social media allows people to spread their message to hundreds, if not thousands, of friends, followers, and strangers. Some companies can only dream of that kind of reach, while others pay millions in advertising for the same effect” without actually putting numbers behind why, for example, the reach of a corporate blogger/twitterer/Facebook-updater might be greater and more efficient than a traditional advertising buy deserves its share of ridicule.

It’s not that social media or the much-hyped Web 2.0 doesn’t matter. It does.

It’s more that grand claims by people who, surprise, surprise, happen to make money by selling people on spending their marketing dollars on social media should be taken with a grain of salt…even when there are numbers to back up their assertions.

In the case of this article, which attempts to show the value of corporations adding jobs that are specifically focused on social media, numbers are necessary. Because the claim just doesn’t make sense.

Unlike an advertising agency, which is paid to be ahead of trends and understand channels of communication and the whole form/function of messaging, a corporation (and these comments, again, are focused on corporate social media jobs) makes it money by selling its product…I know that sentence is one of the more obvious ones I’ve ever written, but it’s worth saying it in plain language. Because so many people seem to ignore what it’s saying.

Sure, there are support functions to the production and sale of a product, many of them quite critical…many of them, if you look at Apple as an example, as critical as product efficacy.

Product efficacy is the cornerstone. A product just has to work. If it doesn’t, everyone is going to know and then you’re in real trouble…a product/company can’t hide on the internet.

Once efficacy has been established then the other roles make sense…but what does social media do that, from an objectives standpoint, is different than what an already-established function does? It is basically consumer relations/outreach/PR or whatever you call it, just with a new way to reach people.

To quote Valleywag, “Social media technologies are new IT tools for the same old roles.”

Social media tools are important to understand, especially from a marketing perspective and especially as they involve…but how do they make traditional vehicles like TV obsolete? How does social media require a huge new department and masses of jobs? And how would you prove the worth of jobs like these in a challenging economy when costs must be justified with actual numbers?

(crickets)

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