The era of online interactivity started to establish itself years ago, but only last year did the skeptics start to move off of their "this fad, too, will pass" comments.
Was it the purchase of YouTube for $1.6 billion that finally dragged the skeptics off their platforms of bluster? Maybe. Or it could have been one of the other turning points that showed the impact interactivity can have: Wikipedia’s dominance in search engine categories; Skype’s ability to connect people cheaply and easily without a massive global vertical infrastructure; the continued impact on popular culture and the media of bloggers pursuing news where they see it happening; the first podcasting superstars Amanda Congdon. Ze Frank and Ask a Ninja turning miniscule production budgets into international audience reach; LonelyGirl15′s viral voodoo; the strong financial returns on mini publishing empires like TechCrunch, the Huffington Post, Gawker Media and Perez Hilton. Take your pick, or choose your own event that signalled for the fence sitters that interactivity can’t be ignored.
The early adopters of social media public relations were accused of simultaneously making too much of a niche activity (the Shel Holtzes of the world), and using their muscle to make it look like they invented social media (the Edelmans and, well, Edelmans).
The skeptics have been saying all along that good writing, strong strategies and relationship building are more important than jumping on the latest bandwagon. But why do those things have to be mutually exclusive?
Says Jim Sinkinson of Bulldog Reporter:
"Message mapping, powerful PR writing, crisis management, telling stories, building trust, creating long-term relationships—these will always be core communications skills, and we have to know them. But the context in which we use these skills is being dramatically turned upside down.
"I encourage you to consider that this is a new beginning, and we’re in the middle of it. Blogging, search engine optimization, social media, online video, viral marketing, wikis, virtual worlds—these are the new tools we’ve been gifted. This is our chance to take hold of history and to make history."
An organization (or an individual) now has tools available that don’t require massive investments in infrastructure and expertise. You can be a leading podcaster in your field without being a consummate sound engineer. You don’t need banks of servers. You just need to be willing try, learn, and try again.
Beginning with research and strategy is still important. Tying your communications goals into your overall goals is still important. Measurement is still important. Not treating your audiences and influencers with contempt is still important.
All that’s different is the number of options, the immediacy of reaching (and offending) audiences, and the need to be even nimbler than you were before.
So feel free to get off the fence, if you’re still waiting to see if this fad will pass. Use new tools, don’t use new tools. It’s your choice.
Just don’t be afraid to jump in because blogging and content sharing is only for the geeky enthusiasts. If the Ragans, the IABCs and the Melcrums of the world are spreading the gospel, social media has long ago moved past a fad.