This is the first instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.
Many companies want to be seen as “social” – there are now numerous case studies showing how social engagement online can be beneficial for business of many types. Certainly, many marketers and PR people want to be seen to be engaging in social media as it’s the latest thing to be seen doing as a marketing/comms professional.
But sometimes the priority can be on “appearing social” rather than actually being social and this can be seen in the way many companies approach communications through their website. This is most apparent when you look at the company’s newsroom section – i.e. the place where they publish company news and/or press releases.
In terms of what qualifies a newsroom for the additional badge-of-honour prefix “social media” I think the recipe, in the minds of some companies, works as follows:
Take one tired looking online press office.
Stick in a few Facebook Like/Recommend or Tweet This buttons so people think they can share the story on their social media channel of choice. These buttons don’t actually have to work, just make sure the buttons are clearly visible. Throw in a few other channels for good measure (LinkedIn is popular, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon too and if you are really current try Google’s +1).
Instead of hosting your videos on your site host them on YouTube. Everyone knows YouTube is “social” – don’t worry, you can disable comments if you don’t want people saying your videos are boring and your company sucks on a channel you can’t moderate.
Make sure you put a few pictures on Flickr. Some people still use Flickr and people will instantly recognise the logo so it will create a warm fuzzy social media feeling inside.
Tag clouds! Every web 2.0 site HAS to have one of these. They also make your site look like a blog and blogs are social, right?
Show your latest tweets. This may be just a feed showing tweets telling people what’s on the page that they are already on or it may be a stream of tweets to various people apologising that their experience of your company has been bad and telling them to speak to customer services. Either way, twitter is super-social, so just shove it in. It doesn’t matter if the tweets you are displaying offer no information whatsoever to the person on your newsroom that they a) want and b) didn’t have access to already on that page.
Step 7 (optional)
Add some pictures. Podcasts are also funky; if you have them throw them in too. If you have some presentations, why not stick these on Slideshare too? The more logos of recognised social media channels you can squeeze in to your site the better.
JOB DONE! You now have a “social media newsroom” which you can tell the world about.
“Social” – really?
Don’t get me wrong. Sarcastic comments aside, I’m not saying that any of the things I’ve listed above are bad – in fact many are actually good things that I would recommend. Tag clouds, for example, are a useful way for people to navigate through your content. And there’s certainly no harm in putting videos on YouTube or pictures on Flickr. Many of the self-styled “social media newsrooms” that I’ve seen are actually quite good as far as a corporate newsroom goes and often give a better user experience than newsrooms from other companies in their sector.
What I’m objecting to here is the notion that there is actually anything genuinely “social” about these sites. In my view, the self-applied moniker “social media” is often nothing more than a gimmick – reinforcing some of the more negative stereotypes about PR as a profession in general, i.e. doing something for a headline when the substance doesn’t match up.
But why do it? If a site is genuinely social do you really need to call it ‘social’? Shouldn’t it be up to the people visiting a newsroom to decide for themselves if the site is social or not? If they think it is they will ‘vote with their fingers’ by sharing/recommending your content and by taking part in a conversation with you.
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Next in the series: The 3 Golden Rules of Social Engagement in a Newsroom