Every firm that has included social media in its 2013 Marketing Plan, should take a lesson from a media expert from the 1960’s. In the 1962, Marshall McLuhan created a firestorm with his book, The Medium is the Massage. McLuhan, a Canadian professor and communications theorist, adopted the term “massage” to denote the effect each medium has on the human senses, taking inventory of the “effects” of numerous media in terms of how they “massage” the senses.
McLuhan believed that modern audiences have found current media to be soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing; however, the pleasure we find in new media is deceiving, as the changes between society and technology are not the same and he thought were perpetuating an Age of Anxiety. And, so it is with Social Media.
He coined the phrase “the medium is the message” which summarized his view of the potent influence of television, computers, and other electronic disseminators of information in shaping styles of thinking and thought, whether in sociology, art, science, or religion. He regarded the printed book as an institution fated to disappear. Yet, 50 years later, printed books are still around. His views on media were right on target.
In 1982, John Naisbitt wrote Mega Trends, a book that accurately predicted socio-economic trends for the next several decades. He predicted that as we rely more on technology, we will feel the need for more human interaction. He believed that “high tech required high touch.” People will always want to be connected despite the impact of technology that keeps us apart. Communities, neighborhoods, work and church were places where these connections have traditionally been made.
Today, that connection is more often made through social networks. The landscape of the work environment has changed as well. Although social networks do connect us, they don’t connect us in a physical way. This is not the networking that is done during a cocktail reception when you meet people face-to-face. Thus, it is time to take another look at McLuhan and peel back the onion of social media to determine whether it is simply a massage of our senses or an important place to conduct business. Although some believe the title of the book was an accident made by a typesetter. Yes, before computer printing and email, someone actually had to set the type that appeared on the printed page. However, when it was brought to McLuhan’s attention, he proclaimed that was the perfect word. The important thing about communications is that words matter.
Everything social from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook has an impact on our senses that goes beyond the content of the communications. When people tweet their locations and what they are doing tonight, is it really important communications or something that makes them feel good? Therefore, in a real way, social media is a massage. It gives us everything we expect from a good body massage. We feel different when we are finished.
Communications, on the other hand, is about the message. This brings us full circle to the purpose of Business Development Professionals and that is providing training for professional services firms in the areas of marketing and business development. It is about understanding how to deliver consistent and clear messages to clients.
Messages that move your business proposition forward. There is no doubt that social media has a place in doing this. When it is done correctly, there is power in social media. Firms need to understand that a social media component in their marketing plan is not a guarantee of success. No matter how cool the CEO thinks it is to have a large following on Twitter, it is still the content of the messaging that will make the difference in attracting clients.
Is social media part of your marketing plan because everyone is doing it and it is the cost of doing business today? Is it the massage that makes you feel good about what your firm has done in the past? Is social media the message and not the content of what you are trying to communicate? Every firm needs to honestly answer these questions. Our training programs and consulting services have a module on client communications. Here are three tips you can use to assess your social media strategy:
1. Is your firm considered a thought leader in the industry?
2. If they aren’t already, have your industry experts start posting articles/blog on your website
3. Start tracking all communications sent through social media. In short time, you will understand whether social media is the message, massage or vital component of your marketing strategy.
Finally, if the communication stands on its own and is important for your clients to understand, using other media should be part of your comprehensive marketing plan. For example, most firms will announce major projects or successes on their social media platform and website, but also deliver press releases to industry media, including magazines. On the other hand, what you had for dinner or whether your daughter won her basketball game, is probably not worthy of a press release. Remember, if you or your firm posted it, every client and potential client can read it. For this reason alone, you should make all of your communications worth reading. Go some place else for a good massage. If you really want to feel good, buy a dog from a shelter.