As public relations moves steadily into the digital age, Pitney Bowes, the office equipment company, has produced some European-based research that warns against confusing digital marketing with building digital communities. Large percentages of European device users advised they would abandon social media "if mass marketing were to bombard their personal wall."
"Pitney Bowes advises businesses to be cautious," the firm warns. "Social media platforms face the risk of alienating existing users due to the invasion of commercial advertising and mass marketing. Although commercial advertising can generate short term capital, the long term future of social platforms relies heavily upon the 'online community'. Therefore, a targeted and sensitive approach should be applied where necessary."
Not surprising. Advertising vs. community is the essence of the difference between marketing and public relations. The two disciplines are related. But, the Pitney Bowes research is the latest to suggest, consumers instinctively sort them out. So relate helpfully in digital channels, not too commercially. This may be a sometimes subtle distinction to sort through, but it's evidently essential for the appeal of social media sites.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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