I am writing this post in response to an article on Forbes by Robert Wynne, Is Social Media a Waste of Time? I might be biased, but I do not think social media is a waste of time, more specifically for PR professionals. Wynne seems to think that PR pros and small businesses are looking for a quick fix and a way to connect with traditional media sources. He also seems to think that success with public relations means having the most stories on the news or in newspapers. I hate to break it to you Robert, but that’s not everyone’s ultimate goal. Some public relations professionals are actually looking to connect with their public, and in that way, I do not believe that social media is a waste of time.
Scott notes in The New Rules of Marketing and PR that there are now new rules of PR. Public relations pros do not have to rely on third-party ink. “The web has changed the rules,” Scott notes. “Today, organizations are communicating directly with buyers” (p 20). Press releases get lost in the abyss and there is only so much time that the news channels have on air. Wynne argues that unless you are an established brand, you will not have success on social media. I would argue the opposite. Like Scott notes, “If you are smaller and less famous but have an interesting story to tell, you need to tell it yourself. Fortunately, the web is a terrific place to do so” (p 23). Scott also notes many examples of press releases that are going to get picked up by the media like J.K. Rowling issuing a press release about a new book or President Obama announcing a position being filled (p 23). If you are a small organization, even the best press release is not going to outshine one of these stories. However, you can create a viral video or an interesting post that more people could see than they would if it were on the third page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
There are also campaigns that are more suited to social media and would not do well with Old School PR. These reach to certain target audiences and appeal to the audience that the brand wants it to. A great example of this would be Taco Bell’s recent campaigns for their new breakfast line. A lot of people were skeptical of Taco Bell having breakfast because it is known for its lunch, dinner and more recently “fourth meal.” Taco Bell has done an awesome job in the last few years of having a great social media presence. Instead of selling their followers something every day, they are having conversations with them. They tweet Mean Girls quotes with their followers, talk back (hilariously) when people dis them, and respond when people have serious issues with a local store.
Taco Bell unveiled their breakfast menu in late February, causing a buzz all over social media about their waffle taco. Now what Taco Bell has to do is break people’s habits of stopping by McDonald’s for one of their fantastic breakfast sandwiches and instead try Taco Bell’s new menu. The Nation’s Restaurant News website posted an article about Taco Bell’s menu and public relations and marketing techniques. They just released a commercial featuring multiple Ronald McDonald’s…literally men (and boys) named Ronald McDonald praising Taco Bell’s new breakfast. That’s clever. And it’s easily available on YouTube for all to share. In her article, Jennings notes how Taco Bell has been building the excitement for “First Meal” for years. “[It] was first offered in about 750 restaurants in 10 Western states in 2012, and the chain later expanded the test to about 900 units, refining the menu over time, until it settled on the core [menu].” Taco Bell stated creating a social media sensation by sending key “influencers” what they called Breakfast Phones. The Breakfast Phones would receive calls and texts with missions from Taco Bell to do things like “tweet about their favorite breakfast item” Jennings says. These influencers also received prizes like a Taco Bell watch or a Waffle Taco pillowcase. I have also seen quite a few pictures of people wearing t-shirts that Taco Bell sent them.
If Taco Bell tried to do this through traditional means of media, they would not have had as much success. I don’t even think they could have done this through a traditional means of media. This is a core reason that social media is not a waste of time. If one uses social media in a novel way, they can reach to the public that they want to reach or a broader public if their content goes viral. Not everyone is looking to get a story in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Sometimes companies are just trying to get on the timeline of people in the St. Louis area. You cannot always have “face time” with people, but you can more easily take up 15 seconds of their Facebook time and without any cost to your company.