If you work as a social media specialist, you’ve inevitably come across the line ‘I don’t have time for things like Facebook and Twitter’. Understandable coming from a client; most Canadian companies haven’t even started to test the social media waters or are just getting their feet wet. More of a mystery coming from a communications professional. When it comes to answering the latter, I usually just smile and nod, knowing that it’s just a matter of time before reality catches up with him or her. Saying you don’t have time for social media when you’re in the communications field is akin to going back in time 50 years or so and saying you’re in advertising, but don’t have time to understand this new-fangled thing called a television.
When it comes to the former, however, I try to put social media in context, explaining that there are tools to help make its use more efficient and, above all, emphasizing the power of it all.
The next time a client tells you he (meaning he, his communications team and his brand) doesn’t have time for Twitter, and you would like to beg to differ, ask him, without being sarcastic, if he’s busier than the mayor of Canada’s largest city. Then bring up the example of Joel Dembe. He might just start to see things from another perspective.
Who is Joel Dembe? No one famous or powerful or well positioned enough to bend the ear of someone like a big city mayor and get him to jump into action. Or so you’d think.
Joel has 75 Twitter followers, follows 96 people and is on 2 Twitter lists. A 26 year old marketing analyst, it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be on Twitter. What’s less expected is that when he found himself stuck on the 18th floor of his Toronto office highrise, because a power outage caused by yesterday’s heat wave shut down the elevators he needed to leave the building in his wheelchair, the person he chose to reach out to using Twitter is Toronto’s mayor David Miller. Even more surprising? One of the busiest men in the city was listening, and responded. Surely the Mayor of Canada’s largest metropolitan area must have one of his flunkies monitoring Twitter and answering for him, you say? Well, within 6 minutes of sending that tweet, Dembe received a Twitter reply and within 15 seconds of tweeting Toronto’s mayor his phone number as requested, Dembe received a call from David Miller himself. They spoke for 5 minutes:
Dembe said he made it clear to Miller and the fire department that his situation was not an emergency, but was happy to know that someone was listening.
How’s that for democracy at work?
If the mayor has flunkies working his Twitter account for him, they’re highly efficient flunkies with a direct line to the little red phone on the mayor’s desk. Either way, the good PR Miller has received online, in print and on national newscasts as a result should be proof enough of the power of using social media to be there to listen … and to respond. Not to mention that chances are he’s secured at least one more vote for the next election (if he were running again, which he’s not).
Our clients should be where their customers are. If their customers are using social media, our clients need to be there too. Let’s just hope that as communications advisors, we’re there as well. Before our clients are, ideally. In an age where some of our clients are starting to earmark their entire marketing/PR campaign budget for social media initiatives, we have no choice but to do so if we want to remain relevant.
Would it be great if David Miller would publish his phone number and take phone calls too? Well sure. But let’s not get carried away, now 😉