Gini Dietrich

Social Media to Replace Traditional Media Says CEO Study

By: Gini Dietrich | May 23, 2012 | 

Four years ago, I was invited to do my very first webinar. It was for Vistage and it launched my speaking career.

I’ll never forget the very first speaking engagement I did for them. It was in Washington, D.C. I was 30 minutes late to the meeting because I got lost and traffic was worse than I expected. Then, when I arrived, they didn’t have a projector or screen. So I had to talk from slides on my laptop.

My “leave-behind” was electronic and I’ll never forget a member saying to me, “You’re smart and you’re nice to look at, but you have to be better prepared. That includes having something with your contact information to actually hand us.”

To say I’ve gotten better is putting it mildly. And you know what? The audience has gotten better, too.

Back then, I’d walk into the room to talk about how to use the web to drive business growth and I’d get, “Oh Facebook is for my kids.” Or, “By the time the kids using text messaging to communicate get into a position of power, I’ll be retired.”

When Geoff Livingston and I were writing Marketing in the Round, we referred to the 2011 IBM Global Technology Study, which showed the anecdotal information I was collecting was right on par with what other business leaders around the world were saying.

Social Media to Replace Traditional Communication

But today? Today the conversation has gone from “it’s a fad,” to “I’d better figure this out or my company is going to get left behind.”

And the 2012 IBM CEO Study confirms it once again.

They surveyed 1,709 CEOS from 64 countries and 18 industries, and learned social media will leap to the number two spot while traditional media plunges to the bottom in the next three to five years.

The study also found more business leaders are moving toward a more social workplace, as the best ones already have. IBM broke out the surveyed companies to see which ones were in the top 20 percent, in terms of revenue and growth, and found those were the companies already becoming more social.

What About Big Data?

But they aren’t all gung ho about it, nor are they as excited as some (cough, me, cough) about Big Data.

Still looking at the CEOs, split by high growth and underperforming companies, 54 percent of the fastest growing organizations said they have access to and draw insights from data.

Only 26 percent of the underperforming organizations said the same.

And 57 percent of the outperformers said they could translate those insights into action, but 31 percent of the underperformers said they are able to do so.

The data learning curve coincides with the push towards prioritizing more measurable communication channels with customers. Taking a page from Zappos, one surveyed CEO previously measured call center productivity by brevity.  Now they shift that focus on longer calls that allow them to collect more customer data, ask probing questions, and gain free and individualized market research.

The Survey Says

What this tells us is something Jack Welch incorporated into GE when he was leading the company to global growth: The 10/80/10 rule.

Ten percent of companies will outperform their competitors because they’re willing to take risk, able to incorporate technology at a quicker pace, and learning to adapt to customer’s needs.

Ten percent of companies will go kicking and screaming and refuse to change, no matter what it means to the viability of their business. And 80 percent of companies will wait to see what happens.

In what would have taken 20 years or more to affect businesses, that 80 percent of business leaders – in just four short years – are learning they can no longer sit on the fence and wait to see what happens.

It’s happening. Now. Social media is replacing email, the phone, and the fax machine. It’s time to get your entire organization on board.


About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • It’s been rather exciting to watch this transformation, which is also happening at the small business level. We’ve gotten past the “Facebook is for kids” mentality, but I still see a lot of people holding back because “Facebook is free”…i.e. not THAT important, and they’ll get to it when they get to it. 
    Oh, and you’re smart. And nice to look at. 

    •  @KenMueller I used to have to ask people to tell me all the reasons they don’t think the web is good for their businesses and then ask them to leave that baggage for a couple of hours. Now I don’t have to do that. And, you’re right…it doesn’t matter the size company. Customers are demanding the communication shift.
      Oh. And, thanks.

      •  @ginidietrich the web isn’t good for business. Now Hot Dog Stands that only have ketchup and nothing else to put on the dog? Great for business!

    •  @KenMueller I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. What exactly does Facebook offer for a small business owner, aside from an easy to build and awful-looking (thanks to the Timeline) “web page”?
      Big brands are a slightly different story. But even then I’d argue that customer engagement is not the same as being on the receiving end of thousands and thousands of “Likes.”
      And if you’re looking to track customer sentiment or use social as a customer service platform, Twitter beats Facebook every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

      •  @fitzternet Oh I would disagree, based on first hand experience. Back toyour other comment up higher, Facebook is not fading into irrelevance, it is becoming more seamlessly integrated into everyday life, so we don’t notice it as much. I can share things on Facebook, and interact with “objects” on Facebook without ever going on Facebook.
        I never tout one platform over another, but push for integration. None of these exist in a vacuum.
        I think that small businesses are far better suited for social, and Facebook, because they already are relatively silo free and understand being customer centric. I think Facebook works phenomenally well on the hyper-local level. And the number of likes is not what you count. That’s a mentality that focuses on the tool, not the content and usage. Twitter and Facebook work best when you use them together, but you can certainly track all sorts of sentiment on Facebook. 
        The ones who fail are the ones who approach Facebook as just another marketing tool or just another website.
        And I think the Timeline is great. I love the look of it when someone approaches it creatively.

        •  @KenMueller Agree to disagree. If you think Timeline is useful, then you’ll never see it. Facebook is dying.

        •  @fitzternet Timeline has increased engagement for my clients that are taking advantage of it. I don’t see any evidence of Facebook dying. It’s still growing at nearly 300k accounts per day. 

        •  @KenMueller I’m sorry, I was speaking from the perspective of someone who uses social networks, develops apps and websites, etc., for personal and professional purposes.
          From the perspective of someone who has clients who are paying me to setup or manage their FB accounts, I will say this: Facebook is dying. But you should be on it until you think it’s time to do something more useful with your time/money.
          We’re not at that point yet. But even AOL came back to earth. Facebook will too.

        •  @fitzternet Well, I think I’m speaking from much the same perspective. I guess we just view it very differently. 

  • Thanks for sharing the 10/80/10 rule Gini – I’m sharing that (and sourcing you of course!) concept with my networks today – so important! It’s especially effective when you note that 90% won’t do so well…  
    I used to be one of the nay-sayers when it came to Facebook and other social networks. It wasn’t until I read the data like you mentioned above, and started really educating myself, that I finally “saw the light” cue choir. 🙂
    Hope you’re having a wonderful day @ginidietrich ! 

    •  @samtaracollier It’s the way with anything, right? There are always going to be the bottom 10 percent of people who fight everything you do. That’s why Jack Welch always said, “Cut them.”

      •  @ginidietrich  @samtaracollier I am trying to find a source for this and can’t, but here is my attempt. I once attended a session where they outlined steps of change according to a model I can’t recall right now. I know there were four stages, and I can only recall 3. But the kicker was a change in belief did not precede a change in practice; rather, the reverse was true. I will search for the 4th step, but first people change their practice, then they see a change in their results, and only then does their belief change. I believe that you lived a version of that process with Facebook, Sam. So comparing that with the 10/80/10 rule, we can’t wait for the rest to adopt.  We need to boldly go, then show results of our efforts, and only then will the naysayers finally consider changing their belief. Again back to education, use the pressure and support model to force them along until their beliefs shift and they can start to move themselves. 

  • Social replacing email? I’m not sold on that. Combining social and email is a dang powerful tool.  

    •  @jasonkonopinski I think email will go away eventually. Boston University stopped assigning email addresses to incoming freshmen two years ago. Those kids will enter our workforce next year. They don’t use email to communicate. They won’t conform to us; we’ll conform to them.

      •  @ginidietrich Hmmm.  3 billion email addresses active in the world right now. You need an email address to register for every website and social platform out there, so I’m not ready to call it irrelevant. 
        It’ll change, no doubt. 

        •  @ginidietrich Oh, and you sure are purdy. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski Not so anymore. I haven’t used my email address to register for a website or social platform since Path came out. I only use my social networks to register now.

        •  @ginidietrich I pretty much do the same, which certainly speaks to the ubiquity of Facebook. 

      •  @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski anecdotally, for my students, email was their last choice of communication, with me and others. Most of their contact with me was via live chat or Facebook messaging. Most colleges are using online class submission platforms, so assignments aren’t emailed to profs. 
        Private online content sharing platforms, such as Google Docs and even Dropbox are eliminating much of the use of email by the young. My kids text. Nonstop. Their phones are for texting, not calls, for the most part (and they don’t have smartphones yet). 
        And statistically, I worked with the IT folks at Messiah College. Students are assigned email addresses, but usage is down drastically. I think more colleges will eliminate them in order to cut down on bandwidth usage that they need for other functions.
        It’s gonna take some time, but it will happen. I know I use email a lot less than I used to. 

        •  @KenMueller  @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski Social replaces email for some things. Not others. People use the Facebook Messaging service for Instant and Email a lot. I bet more than posting on people’s walls. And I know many people have Twitter conversations because i do. But I also email a lot still especially when I don’t want people knowing something they shouldn’t.

        •  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich  @jasonkonopinski That’s why I think internal sharing platforms will take off. Even safer than email. Yesterday I was reviewing a document for a friend and when I sent him something, the autofill on my email put the wrong name in. BAM. On dropbox etc that is less likely to happen. I think this is where we might start seeing a mini-boom in smaller private niche networks.

        •  @KenMueller  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich I think we need to make distinction here between internal communications and customer interactions.  I certainly recognize that my personal usage of email is down and use DropBox and GoogleDocs regularly to share client documents, etc – but email marketing continues to be a big business.  I wonder if we can get djwaldow and cspenn  to chime in here with their insights.

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @KenMueller  @HowieSPM djwaldow I don’t think email is dead by any means. It’s still one of the most effective inbound marketing tools. But I don’t think it’ll remain that way forever. People are drowning in their inboxes. I’d be totally cool if it went away entirely.

        •  @jasonkonopinski The assumption here that’s incorrect is that it’s either/or. Theater was created in ancient Greek and Roman times. Still with us. Gutenberg’s press is centuries old, but we still have books. It’s not social or email. It’s social AND email. And TV. And radio. And books. And the spoken word. As with all things, people will find the medium that works best for them.

        •  @cspenn And that’s why I wanted to hear your insights.  🙂 

        •  @cspenn  @jasonkonopinski Bingo. I like it when we agree, CP. That being said, you worded it much better than I did!

        •  @cspenn  @jasonkonopinski I don’t think anyone was saying either/or. Integration has always the key to those who are  most successful. But it certainly is shifting.

      •  @ginidietrich Disagree. Email will stay… Facebook will go away. Or at least it’ll fade into irrelevance. I’d argue FB is already halfway there.

  • As a business tool I have said before Social Media Technologies should reside in the IT Department and then modified by them as needed for each department so that the organization communicates seamlessly and safely. Safe as in many B2B companies deal with sensitive products covered by export controls. Imagine a Tweet with a link to a data file that a non-citizen can’t see because ‘This group thought twitter was great’. Or if another group starts using a platform which then fails to allow the other groups access to important data. It doesn’t make sense for sales to use social media then figure out on their own how to collect data and share with say R&D.
    These are important questions and obstacles. Just like companies have used encryption and VPNs to safe guard data now they have to worry about social messing with all this.
    The problem is workers don’t want parallel work. I hated making a phone call then having to enter into ‘Made phone call’. It was redundant to me. Now imagine having to enter ‘Made Tweet. Here is 4 tweets with customer’.
    So best in class companies will come up with solutions and I am pretty sure they will. But some will stumble.
    Anyone who isn’t mining Social for Data I would short their stock.. In fact I heard Facebook and Morgan Stanley refused to listen on Twitter or they would of seen my 70,000 tweets telling people to short their stock for being over valued and now you see what happened! Almost $20bil poof in 4 days.

    •  @HowieSPM Totally off subject, but did you see Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are being sued over the FB IPO?

      •  @ginidietrich  @HowieSPM That’s a big story for sure. Selectively disclosing the amended S-1 in the middle of trading. Oh. Boy. 

      •  @ginidietrich yes …ahem…check your email! lol

    •  @HowieSPM I used to love the CRM systems I had to work with. “Made phone call, left message. Prospect said to call back one month before new fiscal.”
      It wasn’t quite as good as entering something like “Made call DPO, after the CPD and QRC.”
      That was all gibberish but sometimes it had as much value and meaning as the other non info we were asked to enter.

      •  @TheJackB  @HowieSPM Even better – trying to use ACT! across a largely dispersed sales team. GAG. 

  • First things first…You quoted Jack Welch. He is my number 1 business boyfriend of all time. Which may make you my number 1 business girlfriend. 
    I also want to agree with @HowieSPM – While I love data and a functioning CRM, I don’t use SalesForce because it is still to repetitive for me. If I have a choice between doing the work or reporting on the work, I take the option to do it every time and let my results retroactively speak to my efforts. Luckily I have full trust from the boss man. Also love your analysis of the FB IPO, Howie. 
    I do agree that email seems to be declining. But then my current problem is my customers have so many avenues to reach me now- FB, LI, Twitter, email, phone…too many places to check.  Does anyone manage this well and would like to share tips? Best I have is simply not activating my voice mail so callers get in to a loop and can’t leave me a message…terrible really, but it’s the only way I don’t waste hours listening to voice mail. 
    And Gini- what is Path? 

    • Damn. How to edit my typos…

    •  @RebeccaTodd  I’m sorry. I can’t get past being your number 1 business girlfriend. WOO HOO!!!

    •  @RebeccaTodd  As to the rest of your comment…I don’t have a great process for managing it all, either. I find I answer Twitter DMs, blog comments, Twitter @ replies, email, and then Facebook messages in that order. The only time I check email first is when I first get up in the morning and if I’m walking through an airport.

      •  @ginidietrich Interesting- checking voice mail didn’t hit your list, either…

        •  @RebeccaTodd Nope. I never check voicemail. I’ve trained most people to text me instead. I’ll be I get maybe two VMs a week on my office phone.

    •  @RebeccaTodd  Oh shoot. I forgot Path. It’s a very private closed Facebook-like social network. It’s only for your phone and I think you’re limited to 150 connections.

      •  @ginidietrich  @RebeccaTodd Gini I sadly have to tell you that Rebecca only has one business friend.

        •  @HowieSPM  @ginidietrich My mum says that she counts…and so do my dogs. So I have at least 4…

  • And seriously, when will the day come that pointing out someone’s looks in a  professional setting will just go away? My first presentation to a room full of (all male) Tech teachers, and the consultant starts with “well she sure is easier on the eyes then the last rep.”  THANKS. That will really let these people know I am professional and intelligent. 

  • Oh. Hello. Did someone mention email (ears perked!). Thanks @jasonkonopinski for looping me in. I certainly talk about email (& email marketing) being FAR from dead in “the book” but also blogged about it here: – Not trying to plug that blog post, but instead share the ExactTarget study mentioned there. I think we have to be very careful when we talk about our use of email vs. the rest of the country. In other words, we are not always the best sample. Know what I mean?
    Not that I’m biased or anything. Ha!
    I do agree, however (as Gini said in the comments) that email will change, it will evolve, but I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.
    /cc @ginidietrich @KenMueller 

    •  @djwaldow  I agree it’s far from dead, but I do think we’ll eventually see a shift in how people communicate and email won’t be the first tool they use. Just like the phone isn’t the first tool for many of us now. I hope we get there. Then email can be used for what it’s really effective at doing and the quick conversations can go on via the social networks.

      •  @ginidietrich Totally (TOTALLY) agree with that, Gini. I think it will start to become more integrated with social tools …. as it already is. Great topic!

        •  @djwaldow  @ginidietrich I think we’re seeing that already, at least anecdotally. There are days when I don’t even launch email because I’m focused on another task entirely. Quick communication for me is texts, DMs, and occasionally GChat. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @djwaldow  @ginidietrich I think a big part of Gini’s argument here, if you start looking at the younger generation, is that they are starting to use email less. Yes, email marketing is an incredibly effective marketing tool, especially in the B2B realm. But as that younger generation ages, and they are using email less, the email marketing will become less effective. 
          I’m 50. I don’t open email marketing messages. I just don’t. I treat it like direct mail. In the trash. i think we’ll see more of that in the next few years. 

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  • workmommywork

    I agree with some of the other commenters (@djwaldow for example) that email is alive and well, but I definitely think social has KILLED print. My company focuses on helping small businesses with their marketing, and almost every single client has completely dropped print advertising in favor of email, web, and social. Some are still doing limited radio, but that is also a very hard sell. The key  influencing factors seem to be price (traditional media is just very expensive for smaller companies) and accountability (at least with social you can track click-throughs, etc.).

    •  @workmommywork Are they doing web advertising or have they dropped it all together?

    •  @workmommywork  @djwaldow I don’t know that digitall has killed print, but its ubiquity has also made it challenging for media planners to demonstrate the value and, yes, rates are much more expensive compared to CPM/CPC rates. I did new business development for a regional publication – our ‘print’ rate included some promotion of partners across social and digital (slider ads on the home page). @ginidietrich 

  • I spent time in ’95 selling copiers for a major manufacturer of business equipment. We were told by many people that it was a dying industry and that by 2005 most offices would be paper free. Didn’t happen, hasn’t happened, won’t happen.
    I expect we will continue to see changes but certain tools aren’t going to go away. If anything we’ll adjust how we use them.

    •  @TheJackB We’re in total agreement. As much as I would personally love email to die, it’s not going anywhere. Just like some people still use the phone. I don’t, but some do.

    • Tony9

      @TheJackB So long as power continues to be founded on the stroke of a pen, paper documents will live on. Yes, digital signatures also exist but they are far less tangible than a physical token of an agreement. I think the whole debate fails to separate “official” communication from “informal” water-cooler style communication. It is also interesting that E-Mail providers still consider Social style communication as SPAM.

  • margieclayman

    Aw, Gini, you broke my heart. I knew it was you…I knew it was you.
    Why does it have to be a dichotomy? Why does it have to be, “More companies are seeing the value in social, therefore KILL ALL THE THINGS!”? I dont understand this mentality. I don’t understand it in CEOs. I don’t understand it in bloggers. I don’t understand it in tweeters (twitters?). 
    I think that studies like these that place things in a binary formula (as my friend Dave Van de Walle says) are incredibly damaging and misleading. Question: Is social more valuable to you now or do you think traditional marketing is still useful?  That’s a false dichotomy, folks. Social Media can become important while traditional marketing continues to support it. 
    There are an awful lot of babies being thrown out with the bathwater. I find it highly disturbing. 

    •  @margieclayman  I think you’re reading waaaaaaay too much into this. All it’s saying is social media is going to become more important to a business’s growth than traditional media. It doesn’t say it’s replacing it; simply that it’s switching spots. And my point is, anecdotally, I’m hearing CEO’s attitudes go from “It’s for my kids” to “I see the importance of communicating where my customers are chatting.” It’s a huge shift and it needs to happen. But heck, I just co-authored a book about INTEGRATING it all. I don’t think anything is being thrown out; simply that it’s becoming more important than it has been.

      • margieclayman

         @ginidietrich Well, in my defense, your title does say, “Social Media will replace traditional media.” Maybe that framed me the wrong way.
        It is a touchy spot with me. Mostly, though, I wanted to accuse you of betrayal Al Pacino style, and this seemed like my best opportunity. 

        •  @margieclayman Ohhhhh. So you didn’t read the entire post. You just got caught up in the headline I wrote CLEARLY for SEO. Bwahahahahahaha! 

        • margieclayman

           @ginidietrich No, I read the whole thing. 
          I used to suck, now I’m awesome. CEOs used to suck, now they’re getting awesomer. Read my book, yo.
          Don’t insult my reading skiznillz! I have uhmazing retention capabilities! 🙂

    •  @margieclayman  That said, selfishly, I would love email to die. I hate it. 

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  • Very interesting article Gini, I’m just not that sure about social media replacing emails as not everyone likes to show everything in public, especially CEOs. Social media will have its place but it’s not going to be the everything of the future.
    Like as I’ve just read on Venture Beat where Fred Wilson says that there will always be people interested in protecting their privacy and that’s why he invested in DuckDuckGo. It will get its users even if the great majority will go on adoring Google whatever it becomes.
    Or like ebooks vs real books. Or social search vs relevant search. FB vs Twitter. Different people have different tastes and everyone will use what he likes better but it must be also noted that advanced technology doesn’t always provide benefits. In places where there is still real money or gold if you want to rob it you must go physically there with all risks associated while with electronic money a teenager from everywhere in the world can steal as much money he can and remain untouched. Breaking into the NASA physically is one thing but using a pc is a snap. 😉

    •  @Andrea T. H. W. Not all social media is public, though. I have tons of private conversations outside of email that no one else sees.
      Did you see thesaleslion wrote about social search and DuckDuckGo?

      •  @ginidietrich  thesaleslion Yes, great post, especially because I think the same more or less. 🙂
        As for email and social media it probably goes down also to different tastes but it must also considered that using a first level domain email you own the content while using a third party service they own the content whether is private or not. 🙂
        Well given how many softwares like Carnivore exist probably it doesn’t really matter.

      • domainerdon

         @ginidietrich How private are your “private” conversations?

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  • domainerdon

    The velocity of change will accelerate at an unpredictable rate.  Privacy concerns will be paramount.  Google and FB will go the way of the dinosaur…

    •  @domainerdon I pretty much know, anything I put on the web can, and will, be used against me. If you function with that understanding, you’ll be fine.

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