The year of Twitter: Is there such a thing as too much talk about social media?

December 1, 2009  | By Ketner Group


The Global Language Monitor, which examines language usage across the world, recently ranked “Twitter” as the top word in the English language for 2009 — meaning it out-ranked “Obama,” “H1N1,” “stimulus,” and “vampire” to take #1.

While this seems a bit surprising with everything that’s gone on this year, it’s not shocking. Social media came to the forefront of interest and attention, and every traditional media outlet jumped in the ring to break that minute’s social media trend story and to get a piece of the pie themselves by connecting with their readers via social networks.

Not that we’re complaining — we’ve gotten to see the social media craze first-hand with our client CheapTweet.  Launched just before Black Friday in 2008, CheapTweet couldn’t have been better positioned for what 2009 had in store: an aggregator that pulls deals from Twitter and creates a community around finding the best possible deals for every shopping need.  Social media darling Twitter? Check. Saving money in a recession? Check. We worked with CheapTweet to formulate the message and get the word out, and the site was featured as a holiday shopping must-see on MSNBC less than two weeks later. That followed in 2009 with hits including InStyle, Parents, New York Times, CNN, TechCrunch, Internet Retailer and tons more — and thankfully, CheapTweet’s message and product were strong enough to roll over the competitors that popped up along the way. Cyber Monday (yesterday) brought the company’s heaviest traffic to date.

If it weren’t for the brilliance of the CheapTweet idea, it surely would not have been easy to get the kind of coverage it did this year. Still, I can’t help but feel like the hits weren’t terribly hard-earned. Sure, we wanted every word of every press release and pitch to be perfect, and we wanted to target exactly the right people — but as long as we could get their attention, all we really had to say was “Twitter” and “saving money” for ears to perk up.

Now enough about my anecdotal tangent — what I really want to talk about here is social media marketing. As we’ve all seen one too many times, every 12th person you encounter on Twitter is a self-proclaimed social media “guru” or “expert.” I’m not here to lay out guidelines for how to spot the real experts. I’m more interested in the fact that never before have I seen so much talk dedicated to something in the marketing/media field. Sure, it’s a natural evolution of engaging online, and I realize the importance of knowing how social media works and the benefits it can have for my clients and my “personal brand” (ah, I said it.)

Still, sometimes when I see the phrase “social media,” I want to scream. “I get it! It’s important, it’s here to stay! It can make a difference in my marketing efforts!”  Top 10 mistakes not to make in social media. Top 15 ways you can integrate social media into your PR plan. How social media can help you find a job. It never ends!

I know that, working in PR and marketing communications, it’s my job to stay on top of all the latest best practices and theories in order to make sure we’re doing the best and most effective work for our clients — and personally, I’m a big advocate of social media. I use Twitter and Facebook more than I’d like to admit. But lately, I’ve been wondering — will we always talk about it this much? Will it always be this ubiquitous, or will it eventually become a core component of our strategies as deserving of conversation as all the other parts? I am a huge fan of the work of Brian Solis, Deirdre Breakenridge, Todd Defren, Paul Gillin, Chris Brogan and tons of other true experts that are paving the way for integrating components of social media marketing into our everyday practices. But just because social media marketing is at the pinnacle of its popularity doesn’t mean I want to read the 500 articles that are published every day on what I’m doing wrong and how to do it better. I am a bit of a masochist then, with a separate column in my Tweetdeck for Social Media/PR folks, a subscription to the Social Media SmartBrief and an RSS feed full of it, because I know I at least have to stay aware. And it’s a goal of mine personally and for my colleagues at Ketner Group to interact more with these experts in the blogosphere, not just on Twitter.

That being said, am I the only one who can’t help but cringe sometimes when I see the latest buzz about social media?