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February 25, 2010
Shun Social Media 'Unicorns'

Here's something well worth recognizing and thinking about: College degrees in social media aren't offered, but it's likely this will change.

PR people who perform social media seriously today "will be the forefathers of the next generation of marketing." Social media apps are useful tools, but don't treat them casually. These valid insights come from Dan Zarrella, the self-styled Social Media Scientist, in a new blog post.

People who talk in warm-and-fuzzy terms about social media, but don't approach the subject systematically, remind Zarrella of devotees of guesswork -- practitioners of "unicorns and rainbows."

Relational social media results can and should be measured. Trend lines should be established. What works should be noted, and what doesn't should be changed.

"The great thing about the web," says Zarrella, "is that nearly every interaction can be measured and observed in aggregates of tens and hundreds of millions. We can gather more qualitative and quantitative data about human behavior than at any other time in history. Yet the future of marketing, the very industry that is trying to push communications, business and public relations forward, is built on advice that comes from nothing more meaningful than soft-focus fantasies."

An example of Zarrella's hard-headed approach to social media comes in his downloadable report, The Science of ReTweets. His Social Media Scientist blog is worth following.  

Another approach to the same cautionary subject is Greg Ferenstein's Mashable post, "The Science of Building Trust With Social Media."      

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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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