What has your industry done well in social media?
Mitchell: First, I think the PR world admitted they had a problem: Too many spam emails were being sent and too few personalized pitches and stories were being shared. I think in many ways that we got what we deserved from Chris Anderson's blacklist and The Bad Pitch Blogs of the world. But there have always been great PR people even in the worst phases.
I think most PR people today understand that before pitching a journalist or a blogger you should first be familiar with his or her content specialty and have a relevant story to contribute. Bloggers are surprisingly interested in what brands are doing: Sixty five percent of bloggers use social media to follow brands according to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2011. Custom pitches are well received by relevant bloggers.
The PR industry has evolved to integrate traditional activities with today's online needs including social messaging (bearing in mind the community opinion), relationship building with bloggers, content development, reputation management, and more. In addition, PR pros are also mindful of inbound marketing more than ever before. For example, bloggers that haven't been pitched often approach brands directly. I think the PR industry has done a good job adapting to and leveraging new channels of communication. As individual public relations practitioners, we've done a good job improving public perception of what we do as a whole.
Gallegos: Social media, in its purest form, is about relationship building, providing value, and not being self-promotional. Rainbows and unicorns are nice, but a business exists to sell stuff. Where PR traditionally tends to focus on communication, marketing provides business value through offers and creativity: There is balance in the blending of the two. The advertising industry, or more specifically the digital advertising industry, has turned static broadcasting into engagement by leveraging wonderful new tactics like Facebook ads and social media contests, as well as creating displays of brand machismo with Ad Age worthy campaigns. Many of these campaigns have surprised us and stretched our boundaries, to the point that we can't stop talking about them (Old Spice, I will say no more.) Marketers have a unique opportunity to let an audience have fun with the brand. They are typically the risk takers in an organization.
What does the future of social media look like to you?
Mitchell: I think social media will be completely integrated into the overall public relations and marketing efforts of every company. Strategists will still have a place in a communications team, but it will look different than it does today. Social is here to stay.
Gallegos: It has been said that social media has become "business as usual." I think this is the case for a large group of consumers and a small group of high profile brands such as Ford. The majority of marketers have a long road ahead of them. Social media will become just another mode of communication, like email, as it permeates everything people do. Society will also become more open with what it wants to share with the world as it participates in a global economy. And we can't forget our youth. Kids in developed countries are growing up "plugged in" and their generation will bring with it new expectations. Brace yourself, the world is changing fast!
Jennifer Mitchell is social media dirctor at BRG Communications.
Melonie Gallegos is social media veteran of Geary Interactive and has recently founded Fandom Marketing.