I recently had coffee with a younger colleague who plays a key social role for a fairly large company here in Minneapolis. He/she was sharing a story I’ve been hearing more and more lately. Essentially it boiled down to this: There’s no one in the senior ranks at my company who knows more about social than I do.
Folks, that’s a BIG problem.
And, these younger people are starting to recognize it.
Why is this such a big issue? Because without “social mentors”, younger people in this space are lacking the direction, sounding boards and support they need as they attempt to figure out an entire discipline on their own (because, believe me, that’s what’s happening).
Think about it. You’re a 25- to 30-year-old who’s tasked with leading social media for a company (which is not that unusual in many cases). You’re knowledgeable about social. You get content. You know how to measure results. But, you need help, just like anyone else. You need someone to turn to for advice when you run up against a unique situation. You need someone you can bounce ideas off–someone who understands the tools and channels. And, you need someone who’s been around the block a time or two.
These “social mentors” are hugely valuable–and unfortunately, I am finding fewer and fewer companies have them on staff.
Why? Two big reasons:
1: Gen Xers largely eschew social media roles. As I think about fellow Gen X’ers in Minneapolis/St. Paul in social roles right now, it’s a pretty short list. I think about people like Bryan Vincent (UHG) and Kevin Hunt (Mills). But, like I said, the list is pretty short. I would say most X’ers I know chose to “stay in their lane” when social became a thing years ago (which is fine). But, it’s left a significant void of senior-level talent in the social arena. And, that means fewer of these “social media mentors” in company and agency ranks.
2: The Millennial to Xer/Boomer ratio is huge. According to reports, Millennials outnumber both Boomers and Gen Xers in the workplace (53.5M to 52.7 and 44.6 million, respectively). So, simple numbers tell us there are most likely more Millennials and fewer Xers (and Boomers, to a lesser extent). Then, think about how many Millennials are in these social media roles (A LOT!), and how many Xers/Boomers have experience in that area (not too many). You begin to see the math just isn’t working out…
So, we have a huge need for social media mentors among the younger set. And, we have a huge lack of social media mentors among the older set. Not a great recipe for success. What can be done?
I’m not sure I have the answer. Many of the Millennials who started in social roles the last 4-8 years will begin to assume more senior-level leadership roles in the years ahead, and they will become mentors to the new generation (Gen Z). It’s just too bad they don’t have more senior-level support right now–and whether they want to admit it or not, I think a lot of younger people could use that support.
Until then, I guess we just have a social media mentor crisis on our hands.
Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear from younger folks on this one…
We’ve all heard about the “storification” (yeah, I just made that word up) of the social web and how it represents the future of social. And how companies should start paying attention because “stories” are the new news feed (that’s questionable at best, in my view).
But, we haven’t seen too many good examples of companies using that “story” functionality creatively.
Which is why I immediately paused when I saw this video from Walmart in my feed last week.
You’ll notice Walmart repurposed a string of Snapchat stories (I think) and incorporated it into this video they they put together and shared on its Walmart Today Facebook channel.
Pretty interesting, right?
I actually found this video interesting for a number of reasons because I think it represents three big trends we may end up seeing much more of the months/years ahead:
1: Repurposing “stories” across other social media
Haven’t seen too many brands do this effectively yet, but Walmart seems to have repurposed Snapchat Stories into Facebook/YouTube content (if you’re wondering how to do that, here’s a nice tutorial). This isn’t exactly groundbreaking work, but it is damn efficient as Walmart was already grabbing the video content via phone on location. That video content then served as the bulk of this short-form social video. We’re always talking about ways to make your content work harder for you–perfect example right here.
2: Social company spokespeople are becoming a “must” not a “want”
Another trend this post highlights is the need for the new wave of “social corporate spokespeople.” In the video, you see Bo and Antonio, Walmart “DJs” right at the top. These two are, in fact, Walmart spokespeople. Not in the traditional way you might think about spokespeople–more in a social way. These are the storytellers of 2017. And, they have the skills required for many social stories in 2017. They can get in front of a camera and convince employees/customers to talk and react to the camera (a key skill many in our industry DON’T have). They can put a story together. They have a feel for what will work via social channels. These are the skills Bo and Antonio bring to the table–and they’re going to be skills more companies look for in the years ahead, given our preference for video content online.
3: How do we find these company spokespeople?
Usually, you’ll go out and try to hire them. Which will be tough, given the current landscape and tight job market. But, what’s really interesting in this example is what Walmart did. Instead of trying to go out and HIRE social spokespeople (these two were really hired as radio DJs, but for this example, they’re also social spokespeople), they looked internally. They held a contest to find the first two Walmart Radio DJs who would run Walmart Radio–what a cool job for two lucky Walmart employees who had an interest in radio. And, that’s exactly what happened for Bo and Antonio.
On the media side, some see it as the savior of their business.
On the PR side, it could be seen as a major hurdle.
Because here’s the scenario that’s playing out increasingly with PR folks: You secure a great story in The Washington Post. Your client is excited. You’re pumped because, well, it’s The Washington Post for crying out loud.
The placement hits. You share it on social media. You share the URL with your client.
But, you start getting comments on the Facebook post about people not being able to read the article.
Your client sends you a note quickly saying she can’t get to it either.
Enter the world of the paywall.
It’s great for the media (and I’m not saying media shouldn’t be using this model as a revenue source–believe me, I’ve been a subscriber of the Star Tribune for 4 years now). Not so great for PR.
Based on the social sharing and online-driven world we now live in, online PR placements are more valuable in many ways than the print version. But, if there’s a paywall, that’s all negated.
No sharing on social media–you’ll just frustrate your readers/followers.
No sharing with the client–you’ll just light a fire under them.
No sharing in client e-newsletters–you’ll upset your current and prospective customers.
My question for you all today is simply this: Is this a legit concern for our business?
Are there really enough newspapers with paywalls to make this a legitimate issue? WaPo has one. And, according to one study, more than 80 percent of all newspapers with a circ of more than 500,000 have one (wow). And, certain industry pubs have adopted the model (I couldn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere, to my chagrin).
Will paywalls become more common as a revenue source, or will they recede as newspapers and media outlets continue to experiment with and change their business models (Nielson thinks so)?
And, what does this mean for us as PRs? If paywalls do rise in prominence, does that impact our approach in using media relations as a part of our toolkit? I sure think it would.
It’s an interesting discussion. I’m curious to hear what you have to say.
By now, you’ve most likely seen Starbucks newest concoction: The Unicorn Frappuccino.
It’s purple. It’s pink. And, maybe most importantly to Starbucks, it’s inherently Instagrammable–to the tune of 150,000+ pics on the platform so far using the #unicornfrappuccino hash tag–there are tens of thousands more using the #starbucks hash tag.
Except, according to most, it tastes like crap (at least, according to many).
But, for Starbucks, creating a new tasty drink most likely was not the MO.
According to a Starbucks spokesperson via The Guardian: “The look of the beverage was an important part of its creation, our inspiration came from the fun, spirited and colourful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.”
Read between the lines: This was a huge marketing play, pure and simple.
And, most of it was focused on what kind of drink would photograph well on Instagram (and Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram).
Why spend millions in marketing ad buy dollars when your target audience will market it for you? That was clearly the strategy here–and, judging from the social media stats we can see so far, it worked (not to mention the 20-person deep line I saw at Starbucks last Wed. when it was unveiled at 7 PM AT NIGHT!).
Meanwhile, Starbucks didn’t seem to put a ton of marketing dollars into its promotion of the new drink:
One tweet (most likely with paid dollars behind it, but no way of knowing)
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) April 19, 2017
One Facebook post (same thing):
One Instagram post:
I didn’t see a huge media blitz. I didn’t see ads on TV or across the internet.
What I did see was virtually everybody on the internet talking about the drink and photographing it last week. Without much of any paid incentive to do it.
All because the drink photographed well on Instagram.
Starbucks is hardly alone in tapping into this trend.
Locally, right here in Minneapolis, Hi-Lo Diner is rumored to have made key decisions on the decor and appearance of their restaurant based on how people would photograph their food on Instagram (and their retro sign outside).
And, I’m sure they aren’t the first, nor will they be the last, to take that approach.
I’m also thinking about coffee shops like Spyhouse and Annelace in Northeast Minneapolis–both of which have an inherent “Instagram-worthy” appeal to them.
Product and service design choices are now being made (in large part, in some cases) based on what photographs well on Instagram.
And I don’t think this trend will be limited to coffee shops and restaurants.
I could see this also impacting companies and industries like the following:
- Apparel (where it’s already happening)
- Organizational products (notebooks, bags)
- Beer labels and packaging
- Home and outdoor products
The list goes on. As companies become more data-focused and more aware of real-time consumer trends, thanks to social media, it will be interesting to see if this trend accelerates, or if it fizzles out, in the years ahead.