As communicators and marketers, we all want to stay on top of the latest technologies and understand how they can help us reach more potential customers and other key constituents. That’s why we pay so much attention to the evolution of social media and the emergence of new platforms like Google Plus.
Christopher S. Penn noted last week in a tweet that Salesforce has put a lot of eggs in the social basket, judging from their customer conference: “Salesforce has totally bet the entire farm on social, based on Dreamforce today. Incredible, and a huge gamble.”
At the same time, old ways of communicating are under continuing pressure. The New York Times reported over the holiday weekend about the severe financial pressures facing the U.S. Postal Service. The story explains: “As any computer user knows, the Internet revolution has led to people and businesses sending far less conventional mail.”
So should we be putting our own bets entirely – or mostly – on social? Is that what makes the most sense as far as effective communications going forward?
Consider these counterpoints for a moment in both situations.
Salesforce may be betting big on social, but their tools still work for traditional sales approaches. They are not abandoning old school outreach, although they may be focusing their innovation efforts on more shiny objects. This allows them to hedge their bets a bit. If they are wrong, they still have time to recover. The formidable market presence that Salesforce possesses provides some insulation against an upstart that might make a different, and potentially more successful, bet. Time will tell.
Now let’s look at the snail mail situation for a moment. We all know volume is down. When was the last time you got a letter from a friend? Twenty years ago, that happened for me on a weekly basis or even more often. Not so much anymore. We even all get less junk mail. Just look at your own recycling pile and think about how much bigger it would have been a decade ago.
The New York Times piece makes this case quite well. But what the story really underscores is the unsustainable business arrangements that define the Postal Service. It tries to live in the murky space between a government agency and a private sector company. That’s a recipe for disaster – and it seems as if that’s what’s on the horizon for our country’s official mail service. When you can’t manage staffing levels or prices based on market demand, you will fail.
But the important thing to remember here is that paper mail has not disappeared entirely. We all still do plenty of business by mail, and that’s not likely to disappear entirely in our lifetimes. Even the doom-and-gloomers who saw radio as dead decades ago, or newspapers as dead in the last decade, have been wrong. And the folks who said the rise of the Internet would kill TV were wrong – in fact some studies suggest that the “dual screen” trend where viewers watch TV while surfing the web may actually help the old broadcast medium.
As we all look at what tools to use to communicate and market effectively going forward, we should certainly embrace social. But I, for one, don’t plan to ignore more traditional approaches. In fact, creative marketers and communicators may have more opportunities using some older media because the volume of messages has declined enough that it becomes easier to stand out.
Where are you placing your own bets? Are you going to join Salesforce in making a huge bet on social? Do you believe that paper mail is dead? Let us know what you think in the comments below.