Categories: Media issues

7 February 2010


Social media reality check 2010

Social media is looking less glossy after bruising encounters with business, personal and political reality. Here’s three glimpses of how it’s no longer so hip, cool or influential.

Forrester Research, the independent technology and market research company, is banning its researchers from blogging. It seems that the “personal” nature of blogging and Twitting is a challenge to Forrester’s business model

Forrester is wary of allowing its staff an opportunity to develop an exit strategy around a social media presence focused on themselves. For a useful report, see Forrester crimps bloggers: epic E2.0 fail.

The Forrester stance reflects that made by the likes of the WSJ, Apple and some British football clubs. This emerging trend challenges head-on the advice provided by many so called social media gurus. One such example is Neville Hobson in the UK. He advocates making corporate communication personal, which was advice I dismissed in a recent debate with him: Corporate blogging: now it’s personal?

Meanwhile, David Cameron has ordered Conservative candidates to clear their remarks made on Twitter with head office. It would seem that keeping control of the message is top priority for the Conservatives, just as it is for most corporates.

Anyway, social media is not going to play a major role in the forthcoming UK election. An exception to that will be the sites of outsiders such as Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale, both of whom have a direct link to mainstream media and neither of which is constrained by party discipline. Curiously, whilst they’re great at dishing the dirt, neither is especially interesting on – as it were – political philosophy.

Another exception will be the BNP, which will hide out on the web because its members fear canvassing in public, and because it will not get a “fair” hearing in the mainstream media.

Meanwhile, Obama’s link to the social media world has been exposed as being just a one election campaign stand, rather than the ongoing relationship it was reported to have been. In short, Obama surfed a wave of enthusiasm that does not exist in the UK today, and which no longer exists in the US either.

Last, the Edelman’s 2010 trust survey provided some startling insights into a new and rapid trend reversal:

“Trust in information from friends and peers, “people like me,” dropped by 20 points, from 47 to 27 percent. Trust in information from digital media – blogs, social networks, and free content sources like Wikipedia or Google news – remains low: only between 11 percent and 22 percent of respondents express trust in information about companies from these sources.

To be fair, Edelman reports that trust in all media has fallen, but mainstream media, it would seem, is holding up much better than social media in the credibility stakes. In particular, business magazines are doing very well indeed when it comes to being trusted (here’s a useful summary from Silicon Valley Watcher).

Counter-intuitively, I think that all these trends reveal that social media is coming of age. I believe that we have learned a lot from a period of experimentation and false hopes over the last few years. Now all that remains is for some social media “gurus” to catch up with reality and to start giving sound advice to the corporate world.

6 responses to “Social media reality check 2010”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by paulseaman: On my PR blog now: Social media reality check 2010

  2. Richard Miles says:

    That Forrester, the WSJ, Apple and and others are sufficiently concerned about the melding of personal and corporate comments says a lot. Those corporate actions seem to counter Neville Hobson’s position that advocates “making corporate communication personal.”

    From a corporate perspective, all communications that reflect on the company, its product, people and policies must necessarily reflect the official corporate position for fiduciary and other reasons. Such responsibilities argue against “making corporate communication personal.”

    While social media can become effective extensions of corporate messaging — and “buzz” — strategies, they must be distinguished from the official “company position,” though they may align with it and extend it. In a sense, social media and corporate communications coexist in parallel worlds that are separate and not equal.

  3. […] Social media reality check 2010 | 21st-century PR issues › Paul … […]

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  6. Ronna Porter says:

    The fat lady ain’t done singing yet! Lots of business models for and company approaches to social media have yet to emerge. For some brands, a more personal approach via the social media *channels* will be a good fit with their corporate culture and their market. For many others, it doesn’t fit now, and may never do. Forrester has a right not to *give away* its intellectual property (just as adidas has a right not to have employees give away its shoes and designs!) Beware of the motives of those who claim to give away something for nothing. I’m a real advocate of sharing information, but I’m clear about how people pay for it with their eyeballs, time (to find, analyse, access credibility), community outreach, advocacy, etc.