my turn


Social Media Makes Us Lazy? No, Not Really

Every few months, a new meme gathers more attention in the PR and marketing worlds than it deserves. Often borne out of fear or ignorance, it usually takes the form of decrying the latest and greatest forms of technology and digital media in favor of old reliable.

This is the story of how one well-respected marketer has given credence to a new take on an old lament. More specifically, that "cheap social media makes [junior] marketers lazy."

Some industry leaders, apparently, actually feel this way. According to MarketingWeek, Simon Carter, marketing director of Fujitsu's U.K. government arm, believes that the perception of some communicators and marketers that social media is "free" -- combined with the preference among novice professionals to use only social media -- has led to a gross overuse of social media at the expense of vital skills learned from traditional tactics.



In essence, the next generation of industry leaders has no more initiative than your average couch potato.

Now, I don't for a moment buy this notion. "Cheap social media" doesn't make young marketers lazy, as Carter claims. This is a fallacy that has long since worn out its welcome.

Rather, a combination of poor mentorship and the realities of modern marketing challenges in the digital age has produced an environment in which foundational principles across the board are lacking.

One could make similar claims about "older" generations not readily adapting to changing technology and social media. Surely, every generation could find fault with another depending on its adaptability and adjustments to changes.

Thus, we should not place the blame squarely on young professionals. After all, it's the young generation of tech and marketing geniuses who have created many of the social networking platforms and digital communications tools we use daily.

In that regard, we owe a debt of gratitude to our junior colleagues.

But this sentiment bears further consideration, once you strip away the rather unfair generalization that less experienced professionals who heavily use social media are becoming lazy.

They're not.

What it does portend, however, is the tremendous responsibility we have to ensure every generation of professionals understands and appreciates our professions' basic skills and disciplines. Clients care most about business results, and that requires a foundational understanding of new and old, fancy and basic.

While there is certainly significant mileage in using social media, savvy marketers both young and old realize it should be done as part of a carefully developed marketing and communications strategy. If blame must be assessed, look no further than humans' predisposed nature toward complacency, not young professionals' impressive use of social media.

We need to set an example that social media is not the strategy, but one tactic among many that must work concurrently in successful client campaigns. That goes for mentoring young professionals and clients alike.

Whether we're engaging key audiences via Facebook or a printed newsletter, the basics of good communications still apply, no matter what the channel used.

Unfortunately, my profession -- public relations -- has a history of allowing cheap and fast forms of communications to overtake the basics. In media relations, for example, the mass mailing or "blasting" of pitches, still used by some, has sullied the good work of many professionals who take the time to fully understand the media outlet or reporter they are pitching and why something is relevant to a reporter or blogger's audience.

Thus, provocative statements such as "cheap social media makes marketers lazy" have some merit ... to a degree.

Ultimately, the strategic business value of communications and marketing comes down to how well we help customers and stakeholders relate to our brand and the quality of goodwill we build. That requires a comprehensive strategy that uses social media as one of many digital and traditional components.

Is social media making us lazy? I don't think so. But it is causing us to reexamine how we mentor the next generation of industry leaders. And that's not a bad thing at all.

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