Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When It Comes to Social Media, Pick Battlegrounds Carefully

As the "social-media revolution" continues to be chronicled in many major business and technology publications, most of the stories make little distinction between the various players involved, nor to they attempt to make any kind of judgement in regard to which are more likely to have a quantifiable business impact. According to the results of a new study, they should.

A study issued yesterday by A.C. Nielsen & Co. indicates 60 percent of Twitter users leave the service after the first month. Nielsen didn't make full copies of the study available yesterday, but regardless of the reasons for the quick defection, it doesn't pose promise for the social-media darling, which has yet to figure out a business model -- or even debut a viable revenue model.

The euphoria over Twitter isn't really surprising. In most any wave of change that involves a new way to communicate or a new tech-based movement, there's a rush to crown everyone winners rather than worry about things like viable business models. We saw this in the dot-com boom years when it came to e-commerce platforms. Back then, everyone was predicting how no one would go to "brick and mortar" stores and everyone from consumers to businesses would shift the vast majority of their commerce online.

Obviously, there will be some changes that are a result of this period that will stick and become a part of business life. However, the Twitter study shows how important it is to individually evaluate every player involved in a new trend and make separate judgements on their value. So, for example, while Twitter may go on to establish partnerships with a number of consumer-driven companies who like the ability to instantly communicate with their audience, it might not end up having much of an application for companies who are predominantly B2B focused.

As communications consultants, it's our job to help clients sort through the field and make value judgements based on what's suitable for our clients rather than just jumping on the latest bandwagon. Not only is it good for our clients, but it's good for the PR business as a whole as well; in short, everyone benefits from picking a winner.