Why Bloggers and Agencies Justify Social Media

edelman_pr_jan10.jpgWhile few of us are bold enough to lay claim to Nostradamus-like powers of prophecy, it’s still interesting to read industry predictions. ReadWriteWeb recently released a list of tech predictions for 2010 and as of a yesterday, Senior VP Steve Rubel and the folks at Edelman PR agency uploaded their predictions entitled Digital Visions: 10 Ideas for the New Decade.

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Writes Rubel, “The bigger opportunity for clients, we believe, is to identify the global, societal and technological trends that are reshaping how we think, act and buy – and to pivot into them early. Trends today tend to develop more slowly and are harder to see, allowing clients to take a more thoughtful, thorough and systematic approach.”

The PR company’s report certainly contains some insights; nevertheless, Edelman is likely to have come to these conclusions after suffering a number of social media-related setbacks. In the last decade Edelman employees have been featured on Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson’s PR blacklist, lambasted by environmental bloggers and protesters for contributing to greenwashing and caught creating puppet blogs for Walmart without disclosing their affiliation.

As the new decade begins, Edelman draws on four key themes for the future including the pervasiveness of digital technologies, the move to mobile, budgeting for digital outreach and finally, social media ROI. While the essays are well-written, they’re also extremely biased and self-serving.

When I say “biased” I refer to the fact that PR agencies and tech bloggers such as myself have a special interest in making others believe their claims about social media. Ideas like social media “becoming a business driver”, knowledge of disruptive technologies being the key to survival and the “start-and-stop campaign approach” giving way to an approach “that’s on all the time” are great arguments for keeping us employed. The more you as a startup founder believe that you need to stay constantly connected to your customer, the more likely you are to read our industry blogs and hire long-term social media marketers.

However, in this soup of social media sentiment, there is some truth. Successful companies like Best Buy and Zappos are baking community engagement and social media into their operations, and services like Foursquare are giving rise to better loyalty programs. Whether or not your company has the bandwidth and budget to spend on location-based services and a full time social media strategy is up to you. Let us know your thoughts on the report in the comments below.

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