If you believe the newspaper has died and that everyone who’s anyone is on Twitter, this post isn’t for you. You should find something else to read.
But, if you’re interested in communicating the right message to the right audience — online and offline — keep reading.
Global communication agency Edelman released the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, reporting on trust in government, NGOs, media and and business. The data is always interesting, so I’d encourage you to review the whole report. But, I want to focus on part of it today: the part that explains why businesses can’t put all their “communication eggs” in the social media basket.
One part of the study sought to understand where people get their information. When you combine respondent’s first and second choices, the results are as follows:
- Online search – 45%
- Online news – 42%
- Print – 32%
- Broadcast – 26%
- Company website – 22%
- Friends & family – 17&
- Social media – 12%
Nowadays, we don’t think very highly of companies that only communicate via their traditional websites. But, 22% of people say they’ll visit a company’s website first or second to find information. Compare that to 12% of people who say they rely on social media as their first or second source of information. So, consultants who want to be “edgy” might recommend that a company should consider eliminating the traditional website in favor of a Facebook page. (I couldn’t make that up. I promise I’ve actually heard that debated.) Looking at this data, that doesn’t seem to be a very smart recommendation, does it?
That said, more than 80% cite online channels as their top resource (either online search or online news). Reiterating what we already believed to be true, companies absolutely need an online presence. That presence can take many forms: blogger relations, podcasts, online media interviews, blogging, SEO, etc. Even newer opportunities that rank high in search results — perhaps answering questions on Quora — can be beneficial. But, that’s not enough. Nearly 60% of people ranked print and broadcast media as their top two sources of information. Securing positive media placements is one of the core functions of traditional public relations.
Now, take this one step further: The Edelman report finds that repetition enhances believability. This isn’t earth shattering data, but it’s worth noting that respondents said they generally need to hear something three to five times to believe the information is likely to be true. This report seems to confirm that businesses should deliver their messages to audiences/users multiple times via a variety of platforms.
Before you think this post is about me devaluing social media, it’s not. I’m not a traditional PR purist. I absolutely believe in the upside of social media — as a PR tool, sure, but also as a means to support a variety of other important business functions. Heck, I provide social media services to a number of Geben Communication clients. We help organizations develop and implement strategies that incorporate Facebook, Twitter, social media news releases, blogger outreach and a host of other online communication tools. But, I’m tired of hearing stories from businesses that wasted money on social media consultants who knew how to create a strong personal Twitter network … but had no idea how to effectively translate that into business.
If you’re a business, the next time you’re thinking outsourcing part or all of your communication efforts, ask smart questions and understand how online and offline communication need to work together. Be be warned: If a consultant suggests you totally abandon your existing traditional marketing and PR efforts in lieu of a social-media-only approach, think about this data and whether that person can truly help you achieve your business goals.
And now I’m stepping off my soapbox. What do you think about the findings in Edelman’s report? How do you strike the balance between traditional PR and online communication?
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