Stop Trying to Take the Easy Way Out

Lazy Peep by Flickr user [F]oxymoron

I attended the PRSA Digital Impact Conference last week, and like many PR events, it had a mix of really great presentations but I also noticed the continuation of a disturbing trend throughout our profession – laziness. Laziness disguised as "social media best practices" and cool new tools. 

Don't get me wrong – I don't think people are actively trying to be lazy. I don't think most people even realize that they're trying to take the easy way out. I think they view it as becoming more efficient or effective. And while many of these tools and practices may help someone increase their reach or save them some time, they are also making social media a hell of a lot less social. Why are marketers and PR pros doing everything they can to eliminate the most beneficial part of social media – the people? We are taking what should be a boon to our industry – social media – and making the exact same mistakes we've been making for years with other media. We're reducing relationships to impressions. We're eliminating conversations in favor of automated Tweets. Auto-DMs have replaced actual introductions. Hell, ghost-tweeters even allow you to remove completely  yourself from the equation altogether. People, relationships, and feelings are complicated – metrics, statistics, and tools are a lot easier to deal with. 

Imagine if we could do the same in the real world. Tired of going on all those dates without that…ahem…"payoff" you're looking for? Here's a tool that will let you isolate the targets most likely to deliver said payoff. Tired of all those boring conversations with your wife about how her day went? Here's a tool that will play auto-responses from you so that you can focus on watching the game instead.  I'll just use this app to create a hologram to sit at my desk even when I'm not there and auto-talk with the people I work with. That way, I can be "interacting" with my co-workers 24 hours a day!! 

Dan Perez wrote a post a few months ago - "The Bastardization of Pinterest Has Begun: A Rant" - where he noticed how marketers, advertisers, and PR people have flocked to Pinterest, crowding out actual conversation in favor of more and more content, infographics, and promotions. Social media used to be about people connecting with other people. Forming and strengthening actual relationships. Sadly, it hasn't taken long for people to figure out how to game the systems, how to eliminate actual conversations (those take time, you know) and minimize actual relationships (those can get messy). 

Like the kid scoring 10 goals on wraparound goals on NHL '94 (seriously, if you played that game, you know what I'm talking about – that play was unstoppable) or blocking extra points with Lawrence Taylor on Tecmo Bowl, people are sucking all of the fun and authenticity out of our social media platforms via tools and practices that promote automation and efficiency over relationships and conversation. 

Integrating social media into your public relations and marketing strategies can be difficult and if you haven't already done it, it's only going to get harder. There are a lot of PR professionals out there who think it's going to get easier – there's going to be some new tool that will automate everything, some new "best practices" that they can copy, or that some social media playbook is just going to appear that gives them the step-by-step of how to "do social media." There will always be people claiming to have tools and methodologies that will maximize your time in social media or to eliminate the time you spend Tweeting with only one person (if you would just Tweet between the hours of 3 and 4 on Tuesdays, you'll maximize your reach!!). 

Don't be one of those guys. Be the guy who values actual relationships and conversations over likes, impressions, and followers. Instead of trying to game the system, take some time and actually enjoy the people you're getting to know. Being able to blast your generic press releases out to 10,000 more people isn't a good thing. Focus on sending it to the right 1,000 people instead. Talk with a reporter about the stuff he's writing before you need something from him. Instead of measuring your success by how much stuff you put out and how many people it may have reached, measure your success by how many people actually read it, shared it, and did something with it. Just like playing Tecmo Bowl or NHL '94, gaming social media is easy, fast and unfulfilling. Building actual relationships and talking with people takes time, can be messy, and isn't real efficient, but it's much more rewarding. 

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About sradick

I'm Vice President, Associate Director of Public Relations at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick
  • http://twitter.com/cheeky_geeky Dr. Mark Drapeau

    Thank you for writing this Steve.

  • http://twitter.com/suzannemrubin Suzanne Rubin

    Wow, this is a great post! I’m still fairly new and slow to get going at this social media stuff, but part of my hesitation has been exactly what you are describing. It seems chaotic to me. I will take what you’ve said to heart as I move forward. Thanks for a great explanation that even us Newbies can learn from.

  • Scott Allen

    I just don’t see it as an either/or proposition. Using automation intelligently doesn’t preclude having human interaction also. Using an app to execute a simple process that you would do by hand anyway isn’t inauthentic, it’s intelligent.

    Seriously… if, let’s say, I want to post a quote every day that I find inspiring, does it really matter whether I set a task reminder in Outlook, go to a quotes site, pick out one I like, and post it on Twitter and Facebook, or if I pick out 100 of my favorite quotes all at once and use SocialOomph to send them out at a random time between 8am and 10am every day?
    I still watch for reactions and comments and have conversation if it sparks a conversation.That’s just plain improving a work process.  Why do we have to be inefficient to be social?

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    Scott – it’s all a question of balance. I’m not suggesting we have to be inefficient, just that we should take more time to actually connect with people rather than trying to blast out as much “content” as possible. The example you gave might be fine…by itself. But where does it stop? Why bother actually taking time to tweet out that blog post you wrote when you can just automate that? Why take the time to respond to all your new followers directly when you can just automate that? Why take the time to answer every customer service call when you can just put up voice prompts and automate that? These tools have made it too easy to remove the actual relations from public relations, and I’m afraid that most won’t stop at a single quote a day like you might. 

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  • http://www.chrishigginbotham.com/ higginbomb

    First (and most importantly), sweet NHL ’94 reference. I used to play that with my brothers and our games would seriously end with scores like 50-45 and it just wasn’t fair.

    Second, this is something I notice a lot working as a “small-town” PR guy. Our organization has an effective social media campaign that we track and measure like crazy, but we don’t have all that many followers. That’s ok, though, because the people who are involved in our social media campaign are so very active with it and social media is just a piece of our total campaign (emphasize the “total campaign” part).

    So much of what my team does is out “on the streets.” I’m at the Chamber of Commerce meetings and we give presentations to local civic/business groups. Everyone on my team knows the mayor and we have great relationships with other elected officials. I see the reporters on our beat when they’re covering other events that I’m also attending. I run in to stakeholders at a restaurant or at the grocery store and they know me because I shake their hands once a week, not because they recognize my Twitter profile photo. 

    When I got out of school, people got on me for taking a small-town job, but I think honestly think every PR person should try it out once. It really emphasizes the relationship part of our profession. I can’t hide behind the graphs we get from our Facebook campaign because eventually I need to buy milk. So do my stakeholders. And I imagine it’d be awfully awkward to have one of them confront me in the dairy aisle for not actively communicating with them.

  • http://www.pr2020.com Paul Roetzer

    This is a great post, with incredibly accurate and relevant insight, but my favorite parts, hands down, are the amazing references to Tecmo Bowl and NHL ’94:) 

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    Two of my absolute favorite games growing up! Remember the original
    “Ice Hockey” game for Nintendo? My fat guys would always dominate the
    little guys…ah, the memories

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    I find that my clients have tended to try to chase numbers (more followers = better) instead of focusing on their goals. Chasing numbers is a losing proposition – you can’t keep the pace up, you’re not Nike, etc. Align your social media with your business goals, focus on those, and you’ll be fine. Followers, friends and fans are metrics, not goals.

  • http://twitter.com/savvyauntie Melanie Notkin

    As someone who built her brand with social media relationships, I can attest to how important your points are. If you are self-funded, you know how quickly ‘cheap’ connections can go nowhere and drain your resources. When you have a limited budget, you have to earn consumer support by investing time, kindness, and effort. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. But once you have the relationships, they are only yours to lose. These relationships are valuable to marketers because they run deep. My Fans and Followers support me even when I share sponsored content with them. They actually cheer me on when I do! And they know I appreciate that. And my clients? Well through my efforts, they win new loyal Fans and Followers too. Hard work always pays off.

    - Melanie Notkin, CEO, Melanie Notkin Media / SavvyAuntie.com

  • David Jani

    Greetings ,keep up the good work nothing like a small town hey? I was just wondering if you have had a chance to compare the number of followers you have with numbers that follow other Social media profiles of other business from any field in your local area? 

  • David Jani

    Great Article I totally agree with you that ,people seem to think of social media as a short cut to success,for some its just a fashion statement follow us on twitter like us on facebook wink wink and for some it gives them a false sense of achievement , until people and companies understand that,  their social media platform is just as important a business tool as their phone lines or sales people,they will be in danger of falling victim to the smooth talking social media snake oil salesman who are selling these apps and software without a care about your business.A quote a day is fine, but do you really want a quote of the day from your local plumber when your pipes burst?     

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    “you have to earn consumer support by investing time, kindness, and effort” – absolutely, and that’s not easily done. It can’t be automated, it’s not going to happen by following a playbook, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Just like any relationship, it takes a genuine investment of time and thought. We need more people in this industry who understand this and live it!

  • http://twitter.com/missusP Christine Perkett

    This is a great piece. I have to say that the PR industry in general is taught to automate as fast and as much as they can. With a billable model of hourly, it’s what’s forced into their brains from day one. I always hated the “automation” of even the simplest of tasks in the “old days” of PR – even just calling media was supposed to be “smile and dial,” without much research, thought or strategy into what to pitch or say to reporters. It’s the reason one of the biggest media complaints about PR folks is that they don’t take the time to really read what reporters write and think about a pitch that fits their style and audience.

    My point is – the good PR people get it. The bad ones – those who are probably in all honesty the highest revenue generators (not popular perhaps, but good at making money for their agencies) – are the ones who will look for automation to maximize fans and followers and minimize sincere communications.

    - Christine Perkett
    @missusP:twitter

  • http://richardatdell.blogspot.com Richardatdell

    Thanks for the link, tweets and good to “virtually” connect :-)

  • http://twitter.com/cparente Chris Parente

    Steve — good post. I’ve written about how to balance social media automation and keeping things real. My opinion is B2B and B2C can be more authentic since the audiences are smaller, and often very well defined. A lot of what I do now is content marketing, promoted through social channels. It’s hard work when done right, but very worth it. 

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  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    Definitely – really enjoyed meeting you and hearing your presentation! Looking forward to talking more in the future as well.

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    Definitely – really enjoyed meeting you and hearing your presentation! Looking forward to talking more in the future as well.

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

     It’s definitely a balance that you have to strike – I remember a few years ago when I linked up my Facebook and Twitter updates to make it easier for me to post in both places and my Facebook friends almost revolted. I found out the hard way that they were two very different audiences and just because posting the same thing to both was convenient for me, it didn’t help them at all.

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

     It’s definitely a balance that you have to strike – I remember a few years ago when I linked up my Facebook and Twitter updates to make it easier for me to post in both places and my Facebook friends almost revolted. I found out the hard way that they were two very different audiences and just because posting the same thing to both was convenient for me, it didn’t help them at all.

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    “I have to say that the PR industry in general is taught to automate as fast and as much as they can”

    That’s one of the saddest things about our industry today – at some point, many of us started to become very transactional, very automated, and very marketing-focused. We’ve forgotten much of the “relations” part of public relations, much to our detriment.

  • http://www.steveradick.com/ Steve Radick

    “I have to say that the PR industry in general is taught to automate as fast and as much as they can”

    That’s one of the saddest things about our industry today – at some point, many of us started to become very transactional, very automated, and very marketing-focused. We’ve forgotten much of the “relations” part of public relations, much to our detriment.

  • wrjones630

    Maybe someone should start a new social network, which instead of limiting the number of words maximizes them. The only restrictions would be on photos, none would be allowed, and all thoughts, comments, and observations would have to be both personal and original, unless, of course, you were responding to someone else’s.

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