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Social Media vs. Traditional Media

According to an article in the October 12 issue of BusinessWeek entitled, Luddites of the World, Relax!, people have always doubted the validity or need for new forms of communications. For example, Socrates “objected to writing, in part because this ‘invention’ eliminated the need to exercise the memory.” Also, worried about the rise of the telegraph in the 1840s, Henry David Thoreau scoffed: “Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” And in the 1870s, Samuel Morse, the telegraph inventor, declined to buy the patent rights for the next new thing, the telephone, as it provided “no permanent record of a conversation.”

Today, some people still question the potential for social networking to transform the way businesses communicate. But knowing a little about our past resistance to new things, I think it is fair to say our technology revolution is charging full steam ahead and the computer revolution is continuing to impact mass communications, especially for marketers. But before you throw out your traditional media plans, consider how you can merge the old with the new.

New vs. Traditional: Why You Shouldn’t Have to Choose, and Why Balancing the Two Maximizes Key Marketing Results

With the rising power of social platforms like LinkedInFacebook and Twitter, I’ve seen a variety of approaches to incorporating social media into the PR mix from both clients and peers. Some want to go completely “new media” with the social route, while some still hold print publication placement as the highest prize, and there are those who have started to mix social media with traditional media.

In my opinion, you don’t have to choose between one or the other. I happen to think new media outreach needs traditional media results to help a company jumpstart its online networking endeavors.

I’m seeing some of the most successful and measurable PR campaign results from those that balance and synergistically use traditional media with social media. Here are a few case-in-point examples and easy steps you can replicate for the same results:

  • Share links to online industry trade publication articles (traditional media placements) as points of discussion in LinkedIn Groups and on Twitter or post your own reaction to the story in your blog. This can be an especially effective PR tool if you authored or were quoted in the article since being published in a magazine gives it an extra layer of editorial credibility.
    • Case-in-point: Gary Palgon, VP of product management for secure eBusiness solutions provider nuBridges, regularly authors and is quoted in articles on data security. He proactively posts links to these stories to his followers on Twitter, and as discussion items of his industry’s latest issues/trends in LinkedIn Groups. Several results have included being contacted through LinkedIn by potential partners, end-users and customers; as well as being asked to contribute to presentations at industry events through the power of LinkedIn’s social networking technology. However, the points of interest for these individuals to contact Palgon came from the links he provided – many of which connect back to the traditional media sources he was published in as a trusted and established expert.
  • Tap the power of microblogging for sharing and receiving instant updates at industry events. The next time your company exhibits at a trade show, assign one person the role of shooting out regular updates via Twitter. These can include tactics like:
    • Literal “viral” media: Tweet about a great discussion you or an executive from your company had with a prominent blogger or reporter. It is common for reporters to follow each other via Twitter and decide which companies to meet based on who’s the most “tweeted about” in real-time by other reporters.
    • Report from the event: Share observations from panels and presentations you attend with industry peers, co-workers and customers who couldn’t attend in person.
    • Stay in the know: Not sure what party to attend after the show floor closes? Or where the industry’s VIP will be next? Be the first to know by following the event’s discussions on Twitter.
  • Actively weave social media into to standard communications like e-mail, phone conversations and business cards. Doing so can help you close a deal or get one started. Here are a few ideas:
    • Maximize the real estate of your e-mail signature by listing below your contact information hyperlinks to story headlines you’ve published or to your latest press release.
    • Close out phone conversations to sales calls by asking if you can connect with the contact via your LinkedIn network. Then, regularly tap that contact on LinkedIn with relevant content, news and information.
    • Include your direct Twitter URL and LinkedIn profile on your business card (along with all the standard contact info).
    • Case-in-point: According to Dan McDade, president and CEO of prospect development firm PointClear, “social media tools are providing new ways to conduct sales lead generation programs and effectively nurture prospects into ready buyers.” PointClear currently uses social media to reach and establish dialog with its own B2B sales prospects.

McDade explains, “Marketers know that a series of touches consisting of quality outbound calls, e-mail, voicemail messages and direct mail is a very effective way to reach and convert leads to revenue. What we are now seeing is that results from these more traditional touch types can be enhanced by the inclusion of integrated social media. Social media tools are invaluable in reaching prospects online and establishing a rapport long before a direct meeting takes place.”

In business, social networking is not really “new media” meant to replace everything that came before it so much as it is another route to connect, market, discuss and sell by. If you use it wisely and balance the many traditional forms of marketing with the new interactive powers of social media, you have a winning campaign that doesn’t leave any stone unturned (whether that prospect is found on LinkedIn or is a diehard print reader!).


Peter Baron is founder and principal of Carabiner Communications (www.carabinerpr.com), a marketing and PR firm serving start-up and high-growth technology companies. With two decades of technology marketing experience, Baron has directed campaigns for such well-known clients as Apple Computer, Ericsson GE, Motorola and IBM. Baron co-founded SocketPR which was acquired by Hill and Knowlton. Prior to founding SocketPR Baron was a partner and VP at Alexander Communications (now OgilvyPR Worldwide), where he oversaw accounts covering cross-platform communications, networking, databases and application development tools. His work spans the formative years of the PC industry, all the way to today’s Internet-driven, wireless and mobile device markets. He can be reached at pbaron@carabinerpr.com.

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