Social Media Is Becoming A Commodity

Anyone can do media relations. Anyone can pitch a journalist. Some people can even do it well. However, no-one in their right mind is going to hire your firm because you pitched a straight media relations campaign to them because everyone is pitching it.

Oil barrel

Social media is fast becoming a commodity, just like media relations. A few firms used to differentiate themselves by being the ones who paid attention to social media. Now, anyone who can talk a good game and who knows slightly more than the client is able to pitch it and sound like an expert.

Basic business theory says that while first movers gain a temporary advantage, if they don’t create barriers to entry to others then that advantage can quickly be lost. 

As social media increasingly becomes a commodity, companies need to do more than just be there. Those who have enjoyed an advantage from being early to market need to work hard to separate themselves once again. 

Just ‘doing’ social media is no longer enough to win you business. Having done it for a little longer than everyone else does little to differentiate you, either. You might crow that you were doing it before other people, but potential clients probably don’t care.

What do clients care about?

  • Ideas – creative, strategic ideas that solve a problem and accomplish objectives
  • Integrated solutions – approaches that bring together disciplines into a strategic approach
  • Understanding – a clear knowledge and grasp of the issues that matter to them
  • Rounded team – a well-formed team that covers all the bases
  • Chemistry – a team that gels with the client-side team personally as well as professionally
  • Thought leadership – demonstrated leadership in the areas that matter
  • Success – documented case studies – the one area in which, for now, being a first mover gives the advantage.

So what if you have 25,000 Twitter followers? It takes a few weeks for unscrupulous types to game the system and gain that many if that’s what they’re after. Similarly, who cares if you’ve had a blog for six or seven years? It’s what you’ve done with it that matters.

If you’ve been around in social media for a few years, think: what have you done to separate yourself now that everyone else is just like you?

  • Dave, you beat me to the punch! Social media is not the “end game” — but rather one of many strategies to help a company achieve their business goals.

  • That is why we don’t promote social media as a meida solution to our clients but rather promote it as part of a larger media strategy/mix working in cooperation together with other media. The Omni media approach is what separates us apart from the rest. We Hhave begun to take our magazine to a social media presence in a way that we are actually socially networking our clients as well. We may be new but it is gaining traction as a strategy to support our clients beyond print.

  • Good post Dave. I agree that the tools are accessible and relatively easy to learn, so the barriers to entry are low. But of course there’s a huge differnce between knowing how to use social media (or media relations) tools and applying them to a strategy. Any fool can learn to use a wrench — that doesn’t mean they can find and fix the leak that’s wrecking my house.

  • Jessica

    One barrier to be aware of as well is that even though a lot of companies are recognizing the value of social media and hiring specialists in the field, they’re still not there as far as integrating social media in other aspects of their business. So, the social media person sits on the sidelines saying, ‘hey, look at me. let’s get together’

  • You’re bang on the money here. If you look at the list of things you have highlighted here it looks very similar to the list of ‘reasons you would choose a media relations agency’.

    I think the one big difference is that the cross-discipline integration is the one big difference that can make an agency, an approach or an idea stand out.

  • This is actually a positive and inevitable change. In the late 90’s, there were dozens of Internet/Web/Online specialty shops. Big PR, marketing, and advertising agencies had online spec ops teams. Client-side teams often had cross-functional web-centric teams. By 2002, the medium and related methods were simply interwoven into the practices of marketing, sales, support, HR, alliances/BD, etc. As you and others here have suggested, social media is best when used not in isolation but rather as a key facet in fully integrated programs. Agencies that exclusively provide social media services — like agencies who provide little to no social media services — will be forced to evolve or face extinction. Just as they evolved with the arrival and popularization of the web. Lest you think I’m undervaluing social media experts, I’m not. I was a leader on one of those big agency Web spec ops teams in 1999. 😉

  • I know you’d probably agree with this Dave, but just “doing social media” was probably never enough to position companies as innovative or forward thinking. What really separates the wheat from the chaffe here is creative, strategic thinking.

    To your point, anyone can start a blog. What makes them successful is fresh, compelling content.

    Anyone can start a Twitter account. What makes it successful, however, is engagement and the ability to open up two-way dialogues with customers and key stakeholders that help your organization solve problems or identify new ones.

    At the end of the day, it’s not social media that makes you innovative–it’s your creative, strategic thinking.

    @arikhanson

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  • Hi Dave, social media is not only the end of play of any business ,as social media will never become the most commodity its just a another strategy to meet their business goals,or to acquire the market.

  • Well so much for that blog post..I googled a potential title “social media is a commodity” and found this. well done, u now have a new follower.

  • Nikhil Vaswani

    I think there are just too many sites at the moment. Soon one will see convergence in social networking sites. Much like the search engines where Google has emerged as the leader. Till that point of time, its up to us to utilize the above sites to the maximum. Once consolidation happens, it will get difficult to make it a commodity.

    Till that time ff you are looking to learn LinkedIn usage, a good reference is a new book called “How to REALLY use LinkedIn” by networking expert Jan Vermeiren. You can find a free lite version at http://www.how-to-really-use-linkedin.com/

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