Have you noticed that print media is shrinking? No, not the number of newspapers that are printed but the physical size of many major newspapers is getting smaller. Pages literally roll off of the presses at unbelievable speeds in a four page width that is cut in half and automatically folded into sections. Since the late 1800â€™s the standard width of this roll for US presses was 54 inches. With competition from other media sources, newsprint has been downsized as a cost cutting tool. It is now possible to find even 44 inch standard broadsheets. It is a noticeable change yet there is no outcry from readers that they are being cheated by the publishers. Isnâ€™t it interesting how we look at social media outlets so differently? Somehow we expect them to conform to each other and to our needs instead of their own self interests?
The difference between online social outlets and print media is that millions of people can talk back almost instantly. Instead of using letters to the editor or op-ed pages as a means for expressing personal opinions and complaints, emails, blogs and social media posts are a source of immediate negative feedback. Rants of dissatisfaction by social media users show a broad based belief that there is some sort of inherent right to having it our way. â€œWhy donâ€™t they just leave Facebook alone?â€ â€œTwitter is ruining chats by changing their API!â€ â€œHow dare they take down Google Reader?â€ These may be valid points to isolated specific users, but all of them miss the point that these happen to be for-profit companies that donâ€™t have to cater to every whim. These complaints are even more naÃ¯ve sounding when we look at the fact that we are usually complaining about a service that we use for free. It is always a good idea to listen to customer needs and fulfill them in order to be successful, but you canâ€™t please all the people all the timeâ€¦ especially when they want more while paying nothing.
Just like forecasters talk about New England weather, if you donâ€™t like what you have now just wait a few minutes. Business use of social media has become somewhat of an imperative for marketing, public relations and recruiting, but the changing landscape of social platforms makes constant change the norm. Facts that have an impact on decision making need to be clearly in focus.
- Technology improvements demand change â€“ Most social media platforms are constantly investigating how to make communication faster, less costly, and more efficient. The garage engineer or dorm room tinkerer stories give us quaint images of social media company origins, but we canâ€™t lose sight of the fact that none of the major players look today like they did in the beginning. Subtle fresh looks on a page may be in part a factor for attracting customers, but behind the scenes the code that drives that engine has been changed as well.
- Reliance on any one platform can be disastrous â€“ Blindly adopting a social media channel to be a primary means of communicating puts a company at risk of having the message go silent when changes happen. Google has axed many products that were determined not to be in their game plan. The situation becomes even more volatile when add-on platforms lose favor with the major outlets. A subtle change in API can totally disrupt or even put a player out of business. Running with the big dogs means anticipating which way they will turn.
- A failure to budget for social media needs is shortsighted â€“ Doing it on the cheap will result in cheap outcomes. Many social media tools are free for casual users, but business tools need to be managed professionally and an appropriate investment in the best products are necessary to insure success. There is a mutual benefit to partnering financially with social media companies that adds to their stability. With less chance of failure and better intelligence on strategic directions, planning for a successful company social media program becomes possible.
- Being an early adopter is a key to success â€“ Generally speaking an early adopter of technology of any sort paves the way for everybody else to follow. This means that someone in the organization has to keep an ear to the wind of change and look for the next big thing. Not every new idea will become a Facebook or Twitter, but not trying new things leaves it for others to discover. Active social media research keeps the company from playing catch-up when new ideas begin to pay off.
The use of social media in recruiting or any other outward facing company program is subject to the fickle nature of the technology. In some cases, it is necessary to react defensively and follow a popular trend to keep from being left out. In most cases it will be necessary to fight the battle or lose the war. There is no escaping the fact that we have entered a new age.
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