Water coolers all over the globe are buzzing today with news of a pending Google Plus demise.
Is anyone surprised? I'm not. The rumors started to fly as early as last April. ("Google Plus is Walking Dead," TechCrunch, April 2014).
Time will tell what the difference is between fact and reality, since much of the editorial I'm reading today is pure speculation, but I know one thing for sure: it reinforces the importance of building OWNED MEDIA.
It doesn't matter if G+ actually does go away or not. Last year's incredible dwindle in Facebook reach, their purchase of Instagram, looming Twitter changes to wrap in more advertising - oh, and did we mention the Pinterest changes? - all signify one thing: while social media is still valuable, it's more important than ever to focus on strategy first, tools second.
Even if the tsunami of social change weren't overtaking us, it's obvious that strategy must include a long-term vision and short-term strategies to build owned media.
Social media's days as earned media are numbered - they are becoming paid media at a rapid pace. And more than ever before, social media is not a one-size-fits-all PR solution.
When it comes to building a community, the role of public relations professionals may be to initially create awareness using vehicles like press releases, social media platforms, editorial and other outreach methods, but at the end of the day - we need to also be advising clients on how to create those audiences on their own websites, not websites that belong to other people.
Just like the goal of editorial is typically to drive traffic back to a website, the goal of social media must be to also drive traffic back to a website - making the ability to convert that traffic more important than ever before. The goal isn't to build an audience on the social media platform - the goal is to have that audience take action. Do you want email subscribers? Online sales? Event registration? Social media is a tool to get to your end goal, and we mustn't lose sight of that.
Conversion often falls outside of the PR realm, belonging to the marketing department - but it's a responsibility of PR professionals to have that conversation about PR goals and how they fit into a conversion cycle.
Don't talk to your clients about the platform; talk to them about what action you want that platform to acccomplish.
Why it is so important
Google Plus, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest - all of these social media platforms belong to someone else. We have ZERO CONTROL over what happens with them, regardless of how many thousands of hours and ad dollars we might be investing in building a presence there.
What happens if the leading social media platforms vanished tomorrow. Would your business survive?
It's time to stop and re-evaluate.
I'm not discounting the value of these platforms. They are great for some businesses and terrible for others, just like some businesses do a fantastic job on them and others don't. But I do question the value of investing too heavily in social media when other tactics are more effective for long-term growth.
If you are the kind of business that has chosen to invest all of your marketing eggs in the social media basket... you're in trouble. Not only do you have just one basket, BUT THAT BASKET IS ON FIRE.
It's time to re-strategize and diversify. Much like a financial portfolio should be diversified to balance risk, marketing efforts should always be diversified.
If you haven't done so recently, have a conversation with your clients about their goals and if social media platforms are the right fit to accomplish those goals.
Would a forum or social media style of platform on your own website be more effective? It's worth considering.
If your website is WordPress-based, one to consider is BuddyPress. I'm in the middle of setting up a social media platform on my own website using BuddyPress, and it's where I'll be investing my energy in the upcoming year. Especially once my book hits the store!