Facebook, we’ve got to be on it

We went to see a prospective client a few weeks ago and their marketing manager asked: “What do you think of social media in PR?”

“It depends,” we said.

“Well all the young designers that specify our type of products are on it, so we’ve got to have a Facebook page.”

“Why?” we asked.

“Well last week, they were organising going go-karting, so we ended up going go-karting – they did it through Facebook,” their marketing chap said. “That’s how they communicate. We’ve got to be on it.”

Now it may be that case that having a Facebook page and interacting with their key audience in this way would help the business. Maybe, their sales people should be engaging with these designers through Facebook.

What’s not as clear cut is how they would use Facebook to get these young designers to consider their products and to specify them.

All of the examples given by the company showed that their young designer audience was using Facebook for social interaction, not to talk about products.

What was more surprising was that the company had absolutely no press relations activity in place; editorially absent from magazines and websites that serve the designer market.

Their whole PR strategy was centred around social media and, in particular, Facebook.

How would their designer audience react to their social communications platform being hijacked to present the latest product offering from this company? Or, if the company didn’t use Facebook to promote its products, how will Facebook help to get these designers specifying their products?

The company we visited was in a B2B marketplace, with an established press set up to satisfy the demands of the designers they were targeting.

We advised the company that they needed a press relations programme putting in place, because that was the most important thing they could do to improve their PR profile.

Certainly their PR campaign should address digital outlets, respected bloggers etc. (And, yes, you can use twitter to communicate with journalists who use it. You can also use email or pick up the phone and talk to them, whichever is the most appropriate).

We suggested that social media could complement their media relations programme, but media relations would be the main vehicle to get their product messages out there - as well as an attractive, informative and engaging website for people to visit and find out more. He wouldn’t have it.

This guy was just plain wrong. Effective marketing is about using the various elements of the marketing mix, especially the ones that are most cost effective. But, because social media is the bright new thing, some people go do-lally over it. And, also, because it’s free.

But it’s not, is it? Especially when you employ a PR firm to create your content. Using social media effectively is not a question of banging out a few tweets or getting a couple of hundred people to ‘like’ you on Facebook. It’s an entire engagement programme. That takes time, effort and resource.

Most companies have budget limitations on their marketing activity and they have to make choices.

In this company’s case a media relations programme was the most important thing they needed to put in place, then a social media campaign if they had the budget. Not the other way round.

Categories: Opinion