Today’s guest post is written by Janet Tyler.
The new kids on the block are a royal PITA — but they’re our future. We have to know where they’re going, keep ‘em out of trouble, and maybe see if we can get them to do a little work for us around the neighborhood.
These kids—they go by the snooty name, “social media”— aren’t even teenagers yet—Little Twitter is six, Fickle Facebook is eight, LinkedIn is all business at nine, and Pinterest is still in the bassinet.
But each of them is already going through the angst of trying to determine what they want to be when they grow up.
Facebook showed off with a big step toward responsible adulthood with its IPO, but its wealthy uncles and neighborhood friends did not appear pleased with its behavior: GM pulled its ads and a CNBC poll found even a majority of young people had doubts about it’s long-term success.
Regardless of how you feel about the Facebook IPO, any kid can tell you the real value of social media isn’t the money they can generate. Do you ask your kids for money? As if! They’re constantly bugging you for a bigger allowance, a new phone, all kinds of investment.
So why do we try to make them happy?
It’s because the real value of kids—our own or social networks—is our need for relationships and our understanding that children represent our future. For social media, the real value can be found in the ability to establish ongoing, 24-hour relationships with consumers.
Value lies in the ability to respond immediately to customer concerns. Value is found in the ability to gain nearly instant feedback from consumers on new-product ideas. If you’re expecting social media to generate direct response to coupons—or even ads—you need a slap upside the head.
Kids are kids.
Realize they can make us a more welcome part of our community and can extend our family creed and values —ok, call them our “brand”—a lot further and longer than we can do for ourselves.
It’s time to get real about social media, guys. We see our successes and our failures in those we have so carefully nurtured. And we see the opportunity to carry on our lives—our brand—through our children and grandchildren, even after “Us 1.0” has evolved through more generations. If you don’t want to be that spooky business that lives in the decrepit house at the end of the cul-de-sac, you need to become an adoptive parent.
Which social media do you want to help nurture, and how do you want them to grow?
As a mother of four, I can vouch for the fact we only understand how these kids act today; and if you’re a parent, you know how your cute six-year-old can get you into so much trouble by the time he hits high school. We can’t expect social media personalities to remain unchanged as teens and adults. They’ll evolve into something that either we lovingly befriend or, if we don’t follow them, something that we never will understand. And more children will come along, influencing the fates of their siblings.
How can we ensure our brand’s continued presence in the world of social media through these periods of change?
It’s time to think like a parent and get off the couch to find out what the youngsters are up to. Not once a year between SuperBowl commercials, but every day, updating our plans based on what we see, hear, and uncover about the social media kids.
So if you haven’t updated your media plan for Facebook and other social networks in the past year or 18 months, you’re already doing a bad job of parenting your public relations program. Children outgrow their clothes every season, and they ask smarter questions every semester.
Instead, you should be evaluating your social media programs at least quarterly, accommodating new networks that have recently been born (consider the explosive growth of Pinterest), discovering new audiences to target (explore creative ways businesses are using YouTube) and finding new capabilities of current networks (if you haven’t looked at LinkedIn for six months, click on it now, for Pete’s sake, and see how it’s grown and changed).
If social media aren’t working for you, don’t be a crybaby. Accept them for what they are, for all they can do for you. Then adopt them and grow with them.
Now don’t just sit there—find out what that noise was all about in the kids’ room.
Janet Tyler is co-CEO of Airfoil, a top technology PR and marketing firm with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley. She oversees the firm’s expansion of its digital, social, and global capabilities. Janet is a leading figure in the PRSA Counselors Academy, a board member of The Council for Public Relations and one of PRWeek’s “40 Under 40.” You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and on Airfoil’s blog.