Twitter fascinates me. It is the perfect example of drinking from a fire hose. I saw someone’s post on Twitter this morning and it really sat well with my coffee as I read the Globe and Mail this morning. His re-Tweeted post was a simple comment in my stream – “Never mistake activity for achievement.” This from a guy in Ohio, I’ve never met, who sells supplements on a corporate twitter account I don’t subscribe to. I simply happened upon it as I was consuming my morning media.
So, I started considering the impact the volume of information has had on public relations and the people that serve that industry – and the clients that depend on their services. Twitter’s blog reports that there are nearly 50 million tweets a day or roughly 600/second. Twitter has shown real growth of over 1400% tweets in the last year alone through the more than 190 million unique visitors a month. In a TechCrunch interview, Twitter COO Dick Costolo suggested that most users don’t Tweet at all, but rather use Twitter as a consumption media.
The challenge remains that this intense volume of information has an addictive property to it and one that many executives I’ve seen subscribe to. Get it out there on Twitter or Facebook page, produce a viral video – jump on the social media bandwagon. This becomes busywork without strategic purpose.
We’re a ‘Just in Time’, on demand (and demanding) society with an insatiable need to be ‘in the know’ at all times. For many, especially PR types, this is detrimental to productivity at the best of times, in spite of the cache of being on top of social media.
My problem is less about speed of the medium as it is the quality of whats in the medium. If the Medium truly IS the message, we’re in a lot of trouble. Consumers what substantive engagement and email, Twitter and Facebook provide passive means for communication. Sure there are opportunities if you can mobile them, but the reality is that most firms do a miserable job at it. PR firms have become the salvation in at least responding but they aren’t the ones responsbile for correcting product flaw. You can lead a horse to water but…..
Recent stats have suggested that suggested that 90% of content on Twitter is created by 10% of users. What this adds up to is a level of comfort for a generation of employees, managers, clients and stakeholders that has marginalized the soft skills necessary for real engagement.
What social media, traditional PR, marketing and corporate communications more often lacks is solid content to work with and clients who don’t understand their consumers. The intense focus on social media and digital communication is prioritizing speed to market over quality content and simply busy work – the notion of activity versus achievement. There are enough trends in communication that outline the value of ‘story telling’ and reaching your audiences in new ways. For the most part, I tend to agree – fish where the fish are, but you better have something on your line that the fish want to bite.
The simple truth is that there is a depreciable absence of substance and that, I firmly believe, is why consumers are so distracted and vacillate between products and brands so easily. Capturing the imagination of an existing or potential client/consumer/ stakeholder with bold visions is important, but we know that the costs of acquisition remain on average 8-10 times higher than retention.
Before rushing a product to market, ensure there is some substance or reliable method of validation behind it. The old adage about the tortoise and the hare holds strong validation in this regard. Speed to market may help to get you a prospect or client’s attention, but solid product offering and customer service will keep them.