Beyond gibberish and techno-babble: social media as part of the strategic PR tool kit

Playing with Tools

Posted by Tom Gable

We first pitched the Internet startup in July 2012 on supporting the launch of its new hobbyist portal/platform, which was envisioned to have distinctive features and functionality that could drive rapid growth and profits (we are under an NDA, so can’t share any more). Our Gable PR team provided a multi-faceted strategic plan based on our experiences launching the world’s first Internet payment system and a pioneering online greeting card company, plus introducing other disruptive innovations.

They liked our plan. It integrated old school strategic thinking with a full array of communications tools – traditional and new – fully orchestrated to roll from soft launch, gain momentum and then rocket to greater heights after the official launch. But we were the veteran grey-haired firm (although staffed with bright young talent!), so they were also shopping the hottest social media gurus in the region. The process went on for several months. We assumed they had gone elsewhere when we got the call in December to set a meeting to launch the Gable PR program.

What changed? Although they were initially charmed by the energy and enthusiasm of the fresh-cheeked social media evangelists, one of their partners said they were worn out by the jargon and promises to build their Twitter footprint and drive other social media metrics. The partners started asking for “what could be done beyond measuring things that might not count.”

“We got a lot of great-sounding gibberish but nothing we could directly connect to helping grow the business, not just buzz,” he confided.

Not surprising. A good piece in Techi.Com cited an AdAge survey that showed some “180,000 people on Twitter who claim to be social media mavens, experts, consultants, ninjas, pros, warriors, or some other noun that’s intended to fill you with confidence about their ability to save you from the evil world of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.”

Many social media firms of note do provide valuable programs to support a client’s business and marketing plans. But all of this reminds us of one of the great parodies of social media from Onion, which packaged it as a TED presentation.

Check it out to appreciate the humor as the social media guru brags about his firm making huge amounts of money even though using social media “eliminates the need to provide value to anyone.”

He talked about helping a client raise its Twitter footprint by creating fake Twitter accounts to raise the number of followers from 300 to 900,000 in less than a week, all done by robots, so the his firm didn’t have to do any work. They added advertising the robots could see, but not buy from. And the companies didn’t care, because they were “liked.”

Saturday Night Live also had a classic bit skewering social media during the election. Seth Myers, host of Weekend Update, asked the social media expert if what voters are saying online is an accurate barometer of public option. She said of course. It captures how people feel. And each voice is valid even if it has no punctuation.

The expert provided sample Tweets from the election pointing out the physical characteristics of the candidates and their sexual attributes, plus use of scatological words to describe President Obama. Seth wasn’t too taken with the examples and asked if this really mattered.

She said in social media, everyone’s opinion is equal, including the New York Times columnist and the person using a series of equal signs and a capital D to indicate…

Long story short: As our new client came to understand, it’s not just getting excited about the latest technology, social media or other tool. It’s how to fit any tool and tactic strategically into an overall program to build image, reputation and leads in support of long-term business goals. And can you explain the benefits in something other than techno-babble and gibberish?

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