The Facebook versus the media back and forth in recent times has highlighted an important point that brands need to take note of. It was a side note, something many would have missed, but an important factor that could change the way people perceive social media and the level of it’s significance in their communications and marketing plans.
Mike Hudack, the Director of Product at Facebook, posted a rant about the poor state of the media, taking aim at certain sites and identities and lamenting the ‘stupid stories’ that get published. Several members of the media hit back, highlighting how Facebook itself is the driving force for the degradation of quality journalism – those dumbed down stories are the ones that people click on. You post a political story, it gets few clicks, but post a Miley Cyrus exclusive and the web goes wild – traffic increases as a result, and the publishers can continue generating revenue from advertising by maintaining high readership numbers. It’s Facebook, the media says, that’s to blame for the trend of poor content, because that’s what Facebook users ‘Like’.
We’ve seen this everywhere, right? You watch an evening TV news program and there’s more entertainment and ‘wacky’ news stories than ever before. Go to any news website and the stories that would classify as actual ‘news’, under the classic use of the term, are probably in the minority, overwhelmed by tales of Kim and Kanye, orphaned animals and stupid criminals. The media is being dumbed down because of internet clicks, that’s an undisputable truth. More entertainment stories, more ‘you won’t believe this…’ headlines – there’s simply not as much genuine news coverage as their once was.
And here’s the thing – less news coverage doesn’t mean there’s less news going on in the world. Things are still happening, big news still breaks every day, it’s just getting harder to find extensive coverage in mainstream sources. Social media is breaking news, changing the dynamic of the news cycle in itself. It used to be that the major news outlets were the gatekeepers, telling us the big stories of the day. But now, in many cases, the audience is just as informed as them, making it harder for the big players to maintain our attention. And the thing with that is the sources businesses need to be listening to are also changing. Media monitoring used to be the exclusive domain of press and broadcast, but as mainstream outlets are covering less relevant content, social media is now where you need to be tuning in. Conversations aren’t isolated to traditional media, people aren’t waiting till the publication of the next day’s paper to voice their opinions. They’re doing it in real time. While mainstream outlets fill their page space and ads and gossip and content not relevant to the business community, more and more people are discussing relevant issues on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. If you’re not monitoring social media, you’re missing out on the conversation – more and more so, every day.
Is the news most important to your brand being reported in the outlets you’re used to? Are there discussions happening on social media that you’re not aware of? The only way to answer these questions is to start monitoring and see for yourself.