As is often the case for some adopters of new technology, what’s new today can get old very quickly. A recent article in Politico points out that politicians are increasingly tiring of Twitter and its 140-character limit, as well as other social media tools. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/50299.html. The article quotes congressmen saying things like, “Social media is a pain in the a–,” and, “There’s a lot of trolls on Twitter. I just got to the point that I was sick and tired of it.”
Besides sorting through social media messages in addition to e-mail, Hill staffers are now of the opinion that social media isn’t helping them as much as they had hoped. Politico’s survey reports that staffers said Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace are among the least useful forms of communication for gauging constituent views. Less than half, 42 percent, said social media had any influence on lawmakers. And nearly two-thirds of the 250 staffers who participated said that e-mail and the Internet have reduced the quality of constituents’ messages. Only 51 percent said form e-mail messages had influence. (We’re not fully sure what to make of this, since emails should have at least replaced letters as a means to reach a member of Congress.)
At CommCore, we counsel our clients that social media remains a powerful force in the world of communications. Witness the Twitter and Facebook-influenced cascade of events in the Middle East. Witness the never-ending series of consumer-driven Tweets about product flaws, or “surprise” YouTube video postings that embarrass officials and force them to recant, resign, or lose credibility. Yet, we also remind our clients that no one form of communication applies to every communications challenge.
Social media is a powerful platform for snippets of real-time information that create a sense of urgency, drive action, help monitor reaction, and foster community and identity. But as the Hill staffers noted, it’s not an exclusive platform that can accommodate extended 2-way communication. Learning how to adapt the on-point and on-message brevity that is a staple of social media is essential to good communications of all types. But on its own it doesn’t allow for the nuance and detail that is sometimes required subsequently. Now that we understand and have experience with its applications, we are better able to counsel on how social media should be PART of a communications plan and skill set, and not the whole thing.
How do you handle your clients’ or your organizations’ communicators’ views on social media applications? How have they evolved in the past two years?