Marketing and communications (“marcoms” to jargon fans) used to be an “after the fact” affair. A company launched a product or formed a partnership and then put out a press release to tell people after the event. Sometimes of course press releases announce upcoming events.
Since the arrival of social media, I am intrigued to see how business communication has changed.
Social media sites, as well as search engine indices, are simple enough – a way of getting your content seen by the world. You publish an article, a video, a photo gallery, a game or some other feature on your website that you want people to look at, you add it to all the directories you can, as well as telling your contacts through your mailing list and any discussion groups or forums you belong to.
Since Facebook took over the world (for the time being at least), businesses have been trying to tap into its social consciousness. Brands that engage well on Facebook know it is about conversation between people who are comfortable with each other. Usually groups of friends who recognise each other and who chat as though they are at a birthday party or works do.
Business professionals on Facebook are just as likely to discuss things they have seen or been doing while going about their day as they are to talk about work. Smart companies using Facebook know it is about people, not brand positioning. They realise it is about the “horrible waitress who served my lunch” or the “traffic on the M25 on the way back from the meeting” – not “Would you like to buy insurance?”
LinkedIn is like a business event where you don’t really know anyone but you can talk to anyone if you have a reason. Before Facebook and Twitter, the kind of things you would read on LinkedIn would be personal career updates. Now, because of LinkedIn Answers, Groups and other features, it also has a bit of a Twitter and Google+ feel to it in terms of what people post. You get lots of links to “my latest blog post” and lots of people mentioning which business networking event they are about to attend. It is very much a professional environment though, rather than tittle tattle.
Facebook helped people make the transition from professional to personal; it has allowed businesses to open up the “who we are” page of their website into a whole network of individuals chatting about what they do at work, in between what they do at home and with their mates. Twitter has streamlined this idea further, allowing individual personalities to go about their business on behalf of their companies without being too bogged down with the laughing and joking.
You could say the difference between Facebook and Twitter is this: Facebook is like a party with mates where you get to talk about work a bit; Twitter is like a business social event where you get to have a bit of a laugh.
Twitter has changed marcoms completely. Now, we no longer have to wait for a company to do something to see the press release. On Twitter, you are just as likely to see people announcing, “I have just had a call from a client who wants me to pitch to them,” or, “Had a great meeting with [insert name] who likes my ideas.”
The key point is that marcoms is no longer about big news and big announcements of new products or mergers – it is about everyday, ongoing conversation, with the “story” changing depending on the social network you are using. If companies ensure they have staff present on all social networks, they can benefit from all the different ways of reaching potential customers.
(I have not included Google Plus in this piece, but it is currently looking like something in between Facebook and Twitter).