In my speaking and consulting work, I frequently hear from marketers who speak triumphantly about creating their latest social media release. For the uninitiated, here’s a little description from Brian Solis:
A Social Media Release should contain everything necessary to share and discover a story in a way that is complementary to your original intent; but, the difference is, how they find it and the tools they use to share and broadcast.
They’re basically standard media releases, but augmented by audio, video, photos, social bookmarking links and other social web widgets. Here are a couple of randomly selected examples:
- Pepsi Refreshes Its Look to Appeal to the Next Generation of Consumers as Iconic Brand Turns 75 Years Young
- A million dollars for every Albertan?
Social media releases are a crutch for old school marketers. They’re a familiar lens through which communicators can examine this new social web. All they’re really doing is putting some chrome and new mag wheels on a bog-standard media release. And that clearly isn’t good enough.
The social media release encourages marketers to pretty up their traditional releases and check the ‘social meda’ box as done. It’s methadone to the traditional release’s heroin. A little healthier, but still not a good idea.
Besides, let’s go back and look at the definition of a social media release. An announcement or story, augmented by rich media and conversational tools. That sounds like a blog post, doesn’t it?
Disenchanting Wire Services
My skepticism about the social media release isn’t helped by my general disenchantment with wire services. We don’t write releases often, and it’s even rarer than we put them on wire services. In the past five years, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve gotten quality feature articles strictly out of a release ‘on the wire’. Crafting a personalized pitch and targeting specific journalists has much, much better results.
Yes, there are some minor SEO benefits from posting releases, but I’ve never found them overwhelming. For one client (at their behest) we’ve put 10 old-school releases on PRWeb over the last two years, using a paid level of service. Collectively, those releases have driven all of 343 visitors to the client’s site. That represents 0.04% of all the visitors to that site. They cost an average of US $100 each to distribute, so that’s a rather dear $3 per visitor. Add in the time we spent writing, editing and preparing them for distribution, and that expense gets considerably greater. Maybe we’re doing it wrong, but those releases would have to perform at least 10 times better to be worthwhile efforts.
Of course, the wire services are all over this social media release business. They’ve been marketing them aggressively over in the past couple of years. Such releases cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to build and distribute.
Do these newfangled releases actually reflect the new more conversational, genuine ethos of the web in 2009? To put it simply, do they reduce the bollocks factor? For an answer, check out Marketwire’s 2008 social media release about their social media release offering:
Marketwire Unveils Social Media 2.0: Industry’s Most Authentic Social Media Product
Marketwire, a full-service newswire and communications workflow solutions provider, today introduces Social Media 2.0, the industry’s most authentic and comprehensive social media newswire product. Social Media 2.0 advances today’s press release format, offers public relations professionals a multitude of content options, and distributes news in a variety of mediums to distribution channels beyond traditional media distribution networks.
The title says it all, doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t, that first paragraph feels pretty old-school.
Any remotely capable marketer ought to be able to build a web page or blog post instead. They just embed some video from YouTube, photos from Flickr and some sharing widgets and they’re good to go. Cost? Zero dollars.
The gesture behind the social media release–to be more conversational, to eschew the corporate language of the traditional release, to use rich media more effectively–is right-minded. Unfortunately, the resulting releases often call to mind lipstick and a pig.