Media. Social Media.

An homage to the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise.

That got me thinking about longevity. Many social media marketers are focused on generating buzz in the here and now. Actually, that isn’t an completely bad idea, but it is rather short-sighted and ultimately expensive.  Because many consumer products are meant for immediate consumption, here-and-now marketing of sodas and restaurants and some kinds of entertainment is bound to create at least some business, and it should remain one tool in the marketing toolbox. But if you’re a social media marketer trying to build brand loyalty or humanize your company or cultivate trust, you have to think through both the short and long term.

My students are investigating media channels this week and next. As I planned the lesson, my concern was one of balance. My students need exposure to current media, but they also need to know how to adapt to whatever comes next without spending all their time chasing the next big thing.  The solution comes back to good old-fashioned rhetoric: analyzing the audience and purpose as part of discovering what Aristotle called “all the available means of persuasion,” then determining what functionality you need in a channel, and then finding a channel that has that functionality.

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of thinking that new media and all the various channels that pop up and fizzle away are too ephemeral for building long-term relationships with a community of potential customers (emphasis on the potential–a returning customer is still potential until he or she makes another purchase).  But they’re no more ephemeral than a face-to-face conversation with those people. Sometimes the message itself has longevity; that’s good, but more often, it’s the memory of the interaction that lasts much longer than the message.

Bouncing from channel to channel leaves an organization with few interactions for community members to remember, so it can give the impression that the organization is playing social butterfly instead of investing its time and relational capital in enduring relationships. That may work for some businesses some of the time, but it’s not an impression that tends to pull in repeat customers.  Yes, there is a very real risk that in choosing to focus one’s social media efforts on a small number of channels, one may miss a segment of the target market. But even Aristotle would say that the rhetor eventually has to choose from among the available means of persuasion.  A suitable choice creates the potential for longevity.

Many happy returns, Mr. Bond.

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