Facebook: Communications Savior or Just Another Tool?

Judging by the packed house of more than 300 attendees at Tuesday’s first-ever PR News Facebook Conference in New York City, the social media behemoth’s popularity among PR pros has reached a new high. And why shouldn’t it? In his morning talk, Greg Roth, VP at Buddy Media, called Facebook “the most powerful marketing communications tool there is—with a faster marketing buy-in than any other tool in the world.” If the crowd wasn’t jacked up before that statement, it was afterward. The response to the program was enthusiastic. For some helpful “must knows” gleaned from the conference, read Eric Fischgrund’s blog post.

But there were some caveats: Frank Eliason, Citibank’s well-known senior VP of social media, said at the end of the day that Facebook is just another communications tool, and that 90% of companies are listening to social media, but only 17% are making changes based on that listening. Eliason went on to say that it’s a mistake to hire social media “experts.” Oftentimes, he said, they don’t understand or have a passion for the brand or its customers.

Which segues into a conversation I had with Mike Herman, head of Communication Sciences International (and a member of our Advisory Board), for a story I’m writing on “Creating PR Counselors, Not Tacticians.” Herman is not buying the massive buzz around Facebook. “It’s another skill—another tool in the toolbox,” he said. “Social media is not going to change or solve your strategic problems.”  While Herman says understanding social media is an absolute must, understanding the client or your organization’s business is more important.

As we now prepare for our Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco, I’d be interested in your views on how Facebook is impacting communications now, and how much it will move the needle in the future.

–Scott Van Camp

  • http://www.mblast.com Gary Lee


    As a sponsor of the conference, we were thrilled at the amount of buzz and interest in the room this week. A great topic and a well-run event.

    I am weighing in on Mike Herman’s comments to say “agree”. Just like fax farms (dating myself) and email before these “new” tools of Facebook and others, the tools being used in PR do NOT displace the need for smart people to think creatively and and solve strategic and tactical problems. These are all tools, and must be used accordingly.

    Where he and I might disagree, however, is that the breadth of these tools allows communications to occur like never before. We can instantly reach a far greater audience, and have far greater measurement than we’ve had in the past. That IS a major shift — this tool (and other online tools) may have far greater and immediate implications than anything before it. That’s buzzworthy and is why (I think) we all came together this week to discuss and learn.

    We welcome being part of future conferences. PR and Marketing is a very exciting industry right now, and collectively, we can discuss, debate and hopefully learn from best practices at events like this week’s.

    Gary Lee

  • http://www.3Dmerchant.com Christine

    There is a place PR on facebook, however, I don’t think it’s appropriate for all businesses. Unfortunately, the new Google search algorithm doesn’t take that into account as they state the importance of facebook presence for organic search results.
    Should an apparel store want to reach consumers on Facebook? Yes! Should companies that target B2B? Some could argue both sides, i.e. reach the executive on a social level, but I disagree.