The Communicator’s Challenge: “We” Are Not “They”

Last week I briefly touched on a big issue that, on reflection, is the bane of communicators across various disciplines:

Communicators plan activities to reach our key audiences. However, we often don’t represent those audiences.

We may not be the same demographic as the target audience. We may not have the same interests, or hobbies, or lifestyles, or problems.

That problem is exacerbated when it comes to social media. As new research shows, social media practitioners have a different perception of social tools than do “average” users.

  • They don’t build networks like ours
  • They don’t consume information like us
  • They aren’t influenced by online events like us
  • They don’t care as much about corporate involvement in social media as we do

“We” are not “they.”

There’s no doubt that these tools are powerful. The Dominos Pizza uproar of the last few days is a prime example of the potential of social media to derail a company, while you only need to look at companies like Dell, Zappos and others for the postitive potential of these tools.

However, as I’ve evolved from purist to pragmatist, it’s become more and more clear that we are way further along the curve than they are.

That means we need to be careful. Just because we think something is cool, catchy or relevant, doesn’t mean they will.

In an ideal world we would take concepts out and do market research around them. However, as communications budgets shrink in a recession this becomes less and less feasible.

On our own web properties we can run A/B tests to see which concepts and messages work better. However, in the world of social media that’s more difficult. Throwing out different messages on Twitter to test them, for example, might be awkward and ineffective., and quite frankly anti-social. 

That’s why the first step of social media engagement – listening – is so important. Not just listening to the things you want to hear, either; listening to everything about your brand and how people feel about you and learning from it. There are plenty of tools to help you do that, too.

By listening and learning, you can help to close the gap (a little) between them and us.

What do you think?

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.