Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How Traditional Media is Utilizing Social Media

I live in Southwest Florida and I attended a business meeting last night where they had a panel of representatives from many of our area’s major media organizations discussing how the traditional media companies that they work for are currently using social media in their daily business operations. In attendance were representatives from the Naples Daily News, The Fort Myers News Press, FOX 4 WFTX-TV, NBC-2 (Waterman Broadcasting) and BOBFM. From traditional newspapers to radio and TV, the panelist included a fairly broad spectrum of traditional media corporations.

I was both intrigued and rather surprised to find out that many of these organizations really do not know what to do with social media. Though they have all significantly adopted these sites- mostly Twitter and Facebook- they remain unsure and almost skittish about predicting what place social media will have in their organizations in the future. It seemed to me that there was an adoption of practice, but a reluctance and uncertainty as to how to use it to improve their bottom lines. Effectively, they know they need to do it, but they’re not exactly sure why.

The radio stations probably have the clearest perspective on how social media can and will affect their business. They have already established Facebook Fan Pages and are driving traffic to these pages while they are on the air. Though interestingly enough, the disk jockeys remain skeptical on how mentioning these sites on the air will effectively help drive business. They even indicated that many of them were very reluctant in the beginning to even adopt the practice of mentioning their website. That said, the marketing gurus of these agencies clearly see how a mere mention of a contest on the air and encouragement to view their Fan Page causes a spike not only in their Fan Page traffic but to their website as well. They feel this is an excellent indication of how they are reaching a broader base of consumers through their on air to online interactions. Ultimately, they feel that at the end of the week when the Nielsen ratings are taken, the more exposure their consumers have had to their brand through these new media outlets, is and will have a significant impact on their advertising sales.

Radio has also found the celebrity factor useful through sites like Twitter. Though they are only local celebrities, they are well known in the community and appear to be gaining Twitter followers quite quickly. Radio marketing experts feel that through these utilities, they are creating a more human connection and interaction directly with their consumers and radio broadcast personalities. Essentially, now the public can follow what these people do all day even when they are off their air. It was not specifically discussed how their radio personalities feel about this new type of ‘fame’.

TV News Broadcasting is even more interesting from a social media perspective. They indicated that social media is new on the scene at these companies and has not exactly affected their business or changed their strategies from a marketing perspective. However, they said it has definitely changed the way they gather their news. I found this rather interesting- essentially saying that reporters may be starting to ‘listen’ to the Tweets to find interesting news stories as they are happening through their followers. A sort of ‘reverse Tweet’ if you will. They indicated that though there has not been much resistance on the part of the reporters to adopt social media, they do not have any public Facebook profiles where you can interact with them and they are not necessarily actively using it in their day to day reporting business. It will be interesting to see whether or not this trend begins to shift more towards the use of social media to gather news information as its happening around the area and around the world. Certainly the recent election in Iran was an indication on how powerful social media sites can be in broadcasting news as its breaking. It begs the question, however, if the news is free…does the value of these organizations begin to decline?

Which brings me to our local newspapers. I found them to have the most interesting perspective on social media with the Naples Daily News appearing to be a tad more savvy and directed on how they are currently using social media and will continue to use it in the future. The Fort Myers News Press, though certainly well informed on the topic, seems to be a bit less sure of how they intend to utilize it in the long rung. Interestingly enough, none of these outlets have any policies with their employees (including reporters) on the usage of sites like Twitter and Facebook; though the Naples Daily News indicated there is a policy in the works and on its way down the pipeline.

In terms of news dissemination, these local newspaper reps indicated that social media may be changing the delivery of news overall. Whereas news used to be delivered to the people, there is a growing trend of other people delivering news to each other through the use of social media. They related this shift to the notion that we are now getting some of our news from each other via these websites verses directly from news sources. Blogs are one good example of this; many of us get our industry news and information from blog writers- they get their info from other blog writers and so on and so forth. The Fort Myers News Press stated that where just a short year ago much of the news was distributed by news sources and then perhaps ‘tweeted’, the current practice may now include someone tweeting that they are going to write a story, then asking their followers to contribute feedback to the story, then tweeting as they are writing it and finally submitting it via the web where it is then distributed through various news channels.

Finally, all of this begs the question, “Why do it, and how do you measure it?” Many of the panelists were unsure what to say. Newspaper reps were especially unsure; they seemed to feel that because the newspaper industry is changing so quickly that only time would tell exactly where social media would fit into their business objectives. Currently they are able to see a rather significant inrease in traffic to their online new sites from their social pages. Radio reps were a bit more certain. They indicated that they could see clear results in their Nielsen ratings from incorporating social media by the increased traffic to their sites. They indicated this increase of traffic would not online increase and enhance brand awareness, but also turn page views into marketing dollars; after all, these companies all survive on advertising revenue. The banner ads and in some cases commercials they run on their site will get more ad views the higher their traffic. Ultimately, they said, THAT is where social media will begin to show its effectiveness.

In closing, I should mention that one of the major sponsors of this panel discussion was a local real estate team. They were not on the panel, but it speaks to the growing trend of social media adoption and participation within the real estate space. Nowhere else can you gain the kind of one-on-one interaction with your clients as service professionals than on a social media site. You must learn this practice, embrace it and do all that you can to begin thinking of creative ways to make those personal and professional connections. People do business with people they know and like. Never before has this been more true than today. Embrace this practice and you’ll easily see how social media can and will fit into YOUR business (even if these media giants can’t yet.). Maybe I should direct them to my blog series, 50 Ways to Use your Fan Pages for Business. ;)

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