A Working Definition of Social Media (noun, pl): 1. Crowdsourced Opinion. 2. Crowdsourced PR

There’s a wonderful old adage that says “Where there’s confusion, there’s money to be made.”  The rapidly evolving world of social media presents a bewildering environment for marketers; “should we be in social media?”  “What kind of conversations should I have?”  “Is it unseemly to tweet when you hold an MBA?”

Reasonable questions all…  Of course, given that adage, all sorts of new ventures have sprung up to fill the breech.  Some truly offer clients valuable advice and tactics, others simply spread further confusion.  And too many traditional agencies seem lost as well, torn between acquiring expertise  through buying smaller companies and burying their heads in the sand to avoid this expensive-topic that so far, seems to defy scalability of the sort the mass media (and yes, digital should now be considered a mass media)

So while this definition may be a little slow getting to the table, at this point, it’s been tested and proven in real world situations.  Considering social media as both crowdsourced opinion and crowdsourced PR provides focus for marketers, a focus that–even if there are other minor aspects of social media that may be relevant too–can help drive new initiatives.

As crowdsourced opinion, social media can help tighten insights and bring genuine relevance to the way we position brands to consumers.  Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs are all searchable by clever planners who can farm them for opinions without the artifice of a focus groups’ two way mirror.

As crowdsourced PR, social media allows brands to directly reach out to opinion leaders and try to influence them.  Thinking about these platforms as a means to shape brand stories to bring them closer in line with their ideal positioning makes social media less of an unknown and far more measurable against a specific outcome.

Social media can be confusing.  But if you simplify it down, you can make it pragmatic and actionable.  Which is always a helpful, helpful thing.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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