Remember when your cell phone was just a cell phone? It couldn't take pictures. You could only make a call on it. It was a cell phone. Then the camera got added to it. So there was a cell phone and a camera. You don't remember exactly when that happened do you? It just happened. Suddenly the two media were merged into one, and you take it for granted today. You don't buy your cell phone because the camera is there, but you probably wouldn't buy a mobile phone without one either. In fact, now, you expect it to be there.
In the wake of the FDA docket on social media closing, and as the agency begins to digest all of the commentary it got (thankfully) at the last moment from the primary stakeholders, I thought it noteworthy to add that the walls we have erected between media and social media are rapidly breaking down and that we, and the FDA, may do well to consider that as we think about working with media.
What does that mean? Well, consider that blogs were once (like a cell phone) almost exclusively online diaries of private citizens. Then some corporate institutions got involved. Major league reporters and newspapers began writing blogs because it gave them a way to reach a much wider audience on a wider variety of topics than it did to just file one story a day. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and virtually all major outlets have not just a blog, but multiple blogs in order to reach audiences with specific topics that they are interested in, rather than to be broadcasting out to the lot. And while we don't choose our news outlets for their blogs, we wouldn't think of a top outlet not having one.
And, I've also noticed a huge influx of reporters on Twitter. That, too, makes great sense. Imagine as a reporter the number of topics you can tweet on in a single day versus the exposure one would get merely by filing a story at the end of the the day. There are those you'd almost expect to be there, such as @mikemadden (Mike Madden) the Washington correspondent for Salon.com.
But there are also the mainstreamers present too. Take @jaketapper (Jake Tapper, Senior White House Correspondent for ABC News). He began tweeting in April 2008 and has sent out over 13,000 tweets and has over 41,000 followers. He's free to talk not only about politics, but, as he did yesterday, Dr. Suess. Similarly, @lisastark, ABC News Correspondent, is also on Twitter and has been since March 2009.
Regarding medical products, in fact, there are a host of wire service reporters, even ones with the FDA beat such as @ReutersDCHealth (Susan Heavey) (who, BTW, I noticed is only being followed by one pharma company) and @DCJourno (AP's Matt Perrone – though he is not a prolific Twitterer). In addition, there are solid health beat reporters for print there as well, such as @RitaRubin, @KimPainter, and @LizSzabo all writing for USA Today. There are of course many, many others. But the point is this, if anyone is hoping to get a reporter to write about them and they are only focused on their broadcast side, and not their nichecasting side, they are ignoring an important fact. The line between traditional media and social media is rapidly blurring.
So the next time you are asked (particularly by a medical products manufacturer) as I have been this week, what is the return on investment for engagement in social media, one might respond that it is less about the return on investment than it is about what one loses by not having a solid footprint in social media. It is a little like trying to sell a mobile phone that doesn't have a camera.