Thursday, September 15, 2011

What’s Your Digital Fitness Level?

Work It Social Media!
Earlier this week PepsiCo’s director of digital and social media B.
Bonin Bough again chastised the PR industry for being digitally out of shape. “Digital fitness,” or knowledge about how clients use social media and a 101-understanding of the science behind search algorithms, said Bough, is essential if communications companies wish to stay on top of the ever-changing digital front.

To a large extent Bough’s tonic for the industry falls flat - pun intended. Put another way, if the PR industry –and the country – were as physically fit as we are digitally, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic on our hands. Digital fitness may be a great buzzword that generates web traffic, (of course we wouldn’t know as digital luddites) but the reality is, social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds or the almost-antique email, are already major components of our communications tool belts.

Think about it. Can anyone really imagine a PR company – or almost any successful organization – not relying on social media to promote their brand in some way? Moreover, today’s clients expect social media outreach as par for the proverbial course and not some gimmick-driven extra. Many of today’s college graduates entering the working world have already been using Facebook for a third of their lives, first signing on when they were in early high school in 2004.

A growing number too are graduating with degrees in social media.

And while demographers and the like forecast a graying workforce, data indicates that 78 percent of the US workforce in 2009 was made up of individuals ages 25-54. I don’t know about you, but I know plenty of 40 and 50-somethings who are just as (and if not more) iPad-savvy as the next 20 or 30-something.

To Bough’s point that Facebookers and Tweetters must intimately understand the science behind their media outlets, comparing the process to how children learn to ride bicycles, I cry foul. Yes, it’s true children don’t learn to ride a bicycle watching it sit idly by the curb. That’s why they get on and pedal. But ask a five-year-old about the basic laws of Newtonian motion that lie at the underpinnings of his first successful ride and he’ll draw a blank.

My point: Intimate knowledge of the inner workings of social media is important, to be sure, but just by using social media and receiving immediate feedback from our clients ensures that its usefulness and effectiveness grows organically.

Of all the ailments besetting our economy and the challenges communications companies face at attracting new clients in these difficult times, our collective digital fitness is not one of them. Now that I’m done exercising my fingers with this post I’m off to hit the pavement for a 5-k run.

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