For years now, many of those in my generation of social media marketing professionals have been trying to get people to stop using outdated terminology. Sometime around 2007 it was no longer really accurate to say “new media” when referring to blogs and podcasts because those media had largely gone mainstream.
Words, terms and phrases like that are often introduced at the outset of a new technology’s arrival to differentiate it from what’s come before, giving first adopters an added sense of being on the cutting edge. Those formats are usually unique but many are quite similar, just facilitated through different means. What is the real difference, for instance, between a “post” and an “article” when both are accessed via the web by clicking on a unique identifier? Not a whole lot.
Their continued application so long after they’ve lost their unique nature is, to some extent, an attempt by legacy power brokers to continue assigning them second class status, to dismiss them as something silly. It’s important that these be seen as less important or worthy of notice to help maintain the illusion that they are the true arbiters of what’s to taken seriously.
In the early days of social media it was common to dismiss what someone posted to Twitter or Facebook as being somewhat…less than. These comments were easily waved aside as the kind of off-hand brain droppings that weren’t necessarily worthy of much attention. I’ll admit I’m as guilty of this as many professional journalists and others.
It’s long past time when that was no longer the case. For several years now CEOs and others have used social media platforms to issue official statements. The President of the United States seems to be dictating foreign and domestic policy from his Twitter account. Whatever you might think of his tendency to live-Tweet “Fox & Friends” and contradict previous statements on a whim, those are official statements from the President, not the incoherent ramblings of someone whose family urgently needs to place him in an elder care facility, and need to be treated as such.
The same applies to comments made by actors, executives, media types and everyone else. Rightly or wrongly, social media has become the new press conference. Instead of calling reporters together on the courthouse steps, you post a screenshot of a statement you’ve typed out in your Notes app.
So here’s what I’d like to see media professionals do going forward: Stop using “Tweet,” “…posted to Facebook” or any other indicator of where the statement was made that assigns it some secondary status, relegating it to novelty. Instead simply say “In a statement by X, they said…” or something along those lines. That’s more accurate and, importantly, puts it on the same level as if it were said out loud or issues via press release.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.