Tuesday, April 13, 2010

America's Companies are NOT Hiding Social Media Efforts

In her “What’s Next blog,” BL Ochman calls out America’s top companies for hiding their social media efforts. She even lists the top ten, the chief criteria being whether or not social media places like Facebook and Twitter were listed on the company’s homepage.

She suggests three reasons why these companies aren’t engaged, although none of the companies seem to have contributed to the story. Ochman’s top three reasons were: fear, lack of internal cooperation and legal pressure.

As a public relations practitioner who has spent most of my career in corporate communications, I would like to suggest an alternate viewpoint.

First, the fact that social media is not present on the homepage of each company, in and of itself, is no reason to categorize companies as “hiding.” If, like many large companies, they are using a stakeholder model of communications, their efforts might be considered niche to a stakeholder(s) who would not necessarily be reached by the corporate homepage.

One example of this is on the landing page of the new Chevrolet Volt, which includes links to Facebook and Twitter, a Community link and numerous blog posts about the 2011 product from General Motors. It’s targeted to the audience and it’s front and center for that product.

Are America’s top companies really afraid of social media? I doubt it. What they are afraid of is failing at social media, and most large companies know that the stakes are high. Ochman cites lack of cooperation between internal channels as a cause for the top ten not engaging , but I would venture a guess that integration is a tough issue for organizations. What should you integrate? Who should be responsible for the integration? Is it part of everyone’s job? Should marketing own it? How about the Communications department? There are human resource issues as well.

Large issues are at stake here: education about social media and ethical principles of using it across diverse employee and customer populations. This takes time for larger companies to populate and includes educating legal teams too. Companies are certainly on a journey which will lead to empowerment in social media --- it’s hard work for companies and it doesn’t happen overnight.

I would not categorize America’s top companies as hiding. Rather, I would say they are struggling with ownership, integration, education and empowerment issues. Let’s give them more time to get it right. Perhaps it would lead to permanent, sustainable change.

1 comment:

B.L. Ochman said...

You have misunderstood what i mean when i say companies are hiding their social media involvement.

All of the Fortune 10 have some form of involvement in social media, from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter, as noted in the report I linked to from Burson.

THe point is that companies that are open to two-way communications make it easy to reach them in all channels where they have content, including social media channels.

the idea that companies are afraid of failure is so 1999. Social media has led to more success stories than failures, and the ROI can be measured in at least 100 different metrics. The metrics are not so different from the ones that measure PR.

The social media train left the station a long time ago. Sadly, the vast majority of PR people were not on it.

PR is slow to adapt, stuck in the model of traditional media being the only media that counts; thinking that message control still is an option.

Not so anymore.

For the record, until 1995, I ran a PR firm with my name on the door and blue chip clients. Saw the internet, saw the future, walked away from PR and never looked back.