Controlling Content in a Sea of Social Media Change

When was your last online ‘aha’ moment?

I’m not talking about your friend’s post or text that had you laughing uncontrollably (on the floor?).

I’m talking about the video that matched your passion and captured your imagination, or the article that reeled you in so deep (30 minutes later) that you’re now late for what you were supposed to do next.

Unfortunately, my most recent ‘web-aha’ happened around mid-night, so I was up deep into the morning hours reading The (Top Ten) Challenges Facing the PR Industry via Scribd.

Go ahead, laugh!

The title may not match your ‘aha’ concept.  But consider this:  there is someone working for the brand that you just love who has to tackle the challenges social media presents like the dizzying speed of change and response in an arena where there are almost no written rules of engagement and where the future of your brand is not in your hands but in the hands of anyone who wishes to comment on it online.  Anyone!

As I read this report, one after another of my personal perceptions of social media unfolded into now-proven realities thanks to sound surveying of top communications professionals around the world.  Two of these ten realities seem to float to the top, IMO, as severe and yet-to-be-addressed.

Age Apartheid

The basic premise of Age Apartheid is the online generation gap.  People under 30 are instinctively digital but don’t have the experience, all-around communication skills or decision-making ability to speak on behalf of an organization whereas those over 40 are digital immigrants and may possess the judgment, planning skills and experience, but are “struggling to make sense” of the digital world.

Since the invent of the web, some ‘adults’ took on initially, but most skimmed along at best while the kids simply grew up with it (and built it to make it better).  Now the growth in usage and constant change of what we can do with social media has expanded that gap as wide as an ocean.

We can bridge this ocean using a mentoring model.  Bring in the young pros (or outsourced team) who can manipulate many online environments simultaneously and have them work under a veteran communicator/marketer who has experienced what to say, and not to say, in each situation.  Smart groups have been doing this the past few years, but you may be surprised at how often it’s not happening.

The Great Unknown

Until there is a measure that directly links this product sale to that online ad, or the adoption of this brand into your life based on that social media PR campaign, we are drifting in challenging seas.

There are more social media measures today than ever, but the survey found an almost unanimous dissatisfaction by communicators at their ability to truly measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.  Any hard statistics provide a sample the size of krill in a sea teeming with schools of fish constantly changing directions.

We need a Neptune-like measure(r) that universally counts all fish (online users), tracks their direction and interceptors that dictate their path (current, reef, predator) and then counts them again upon arrival all the while tracing which route they took.  It’s as improbable as I just described it, I know, not to mention controversial (#privacy).  But without it, we’re just “going with the numbers we’ve got” which, if I were CEO, would be an unacceptable response.

If you’re willing to wade into social media’s waters, I feel you should prepare to act as a captain even after your boat has banged up against the rocks a few times.  I hope changes to accountability in online content and in measurement are as prolific as the number of new apps that come out this year.



Digital Communications in Social Media  The Challenges Facing the PR Industry (2010) Watson Helsby Executive Re|search.  Retrieved from    (I know, it’s four years old and still brilliantly on point!  ~Scott)


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