Broadcast Media or Social Media?

I attended the TFM&A show and was surprised to hear Twitter described as, “a broadcast channel.”

I’ve had to deal with a fair degree of misunderstanding, confusion and ignorance surrounding broadcast media and social media in the last few years but I thought we had all turned the stupidity corner. Apparently not.

The context for the comment was the B2B debate on the future of Content Marketing. I was participating as a member of the expert panel. I think the comment describing Twitter as a broadcast channel was intended to support a view that email was still the answer to life, the universe and everything, and, that we should not rest until everything and everyone in the marketing mix has been automated.

‘LinkedIn is for updating your CV, Facebook is for your holiday photos, Twitter is for broadcasting your marketing message.’ That was pretty much the comment.

Is that what it’s come to then? Is the B2B marketing community so totally devoid of creative thought that Twitter, one of the most popular and widely adopted business technologies since man invented the wheel, is to be swept aside in the rush to homogenise all marketing communications into a single automated process?

It was difficult to tell in the time available whether the majority supported the idea of Twitter specifically (and social media generally) as ‘another broadcast channel’, but I remain an active opponent of the idea.

There’s nothing to stop you broadcasting on Twitter of course. A core part of any social strategy is to serve up content and allow the audience to decide on its relative merit and share that content with a wider network, or not.

So, ‘yes’ Twitter and other social channels can be used for broadcast. Go crazy. Broadcast away. Repeat your broadcasts. Wash them, scrub them, pummel them, squeeze every last automated drop out of them and at the end of the process you’ll still have missed the point.

There is no value in the broadcast. There is no value in understanding what time of day your tweets reach the widest audience. There is no value in sequential programming of content based on your business agenda. For an industry obsessed with measuring value and ROI in everything, mainly the activities it doesn’t understand or is scared of, the B2B marketing industry still seems ill-equipped to cope with things it can’t fully control. Namely, its social audience.

The value is in the interaction that social communication inspires. The comment, or quip, or insight, or alternative perspective. The anecdote, or experience, or argument or joke. Humanity and personality simply cannot be measured against corporate process. Social strategy is just part of the lead generation strategy. Are we committed to evolving creative expression, or to perpetuating business dogma? Are we to be masters of technology, or be mastered by it?

I thought we all understood that social media marketing provided a catalyst for changing our brand positioning, not an excuse to attach old thought processes to new technology. I thought we knew that days spent toiling at our desktops should be measured by the people we influence, not the volume of emails we send.

I thought the wider cause and effect of social branding throughout an enterprise outweighed the scepticism of the individual. I thought Twitter (and other social media) allowed businesses to become part of the customer’s buying cycle. Instead, it appears that companies are still trying to use social as a weapon in an attempt to control the buying cycle.

Scot McKee