Most marketing types have heard the story about when Chevrolet introduced the Nova in Mexico. It was a complete disaster because, well, Nova, in Spanish, translates to “Doesn’t Go.” The anecdote is told in public relations and marketing classes as a lesson about knowing and understanding your audience – a basic rule of Journalism/PR/Marketing.
Good PR pros go to great pains to research media contacts, understand their publications and who they are writing for, and then craft pitches that will resonate with those journalists – speak in a language they can understand. Unfortunately the social media phenomena has seen good, seasoned professionals take those basic tenets of our industry and throw them out the window. People have forsaken the art of understanding one’s audience, for the expediency of aggregating their thoughts.
As Eric Eldon points out in a recent VentureBeat blog, people are abusing applications like Twitter for Facebook, turning Facebook updates into social spam.
Facebook has more than 250 million active users. Twitter has more than 14 million users. Staggering numbers. But there’s quite a delta between the two. Which means the majority of people on Facebook probably don’t understand what @, #, DM and RT actually mean. And they probably don’t care, because those symbols have no purpose on Facebook. They don’t translate. And so when this application is used, automatically placing a Tweet full of these symbols – perfectly acceptable shorthand in the Twitter world – into a Facebook status update, it can be confusing, if not annoying. Actual Tweets:
RT @michellegolden: RT @tressalynne Social Media Is Just Part of the Media http://tr.im/tkCM Very good #PRadvice #mediarelations
RT @DaddysToolbox: #TechieTuesday: #tech join us and @jumcclure @ConquerTech @SpringhouseEduc #FF #FollowFriday
As journalism programs incorporate social media more and more into their curriculum, I’m hoping this becomes an important part of the discussion. I’ll be guest lecturing at SDSU’s new Digital Media Certificate Program and when I do, you better believe I’ll be talking about this.
There are tools that allow users to have it both ways. There’s an application called Selective Twitter, for example, that allows you to post to both, only when you want. When I have a Tweet that doesn’t use all the symbols, and I feel it would be an appropriate thought for both audiences, I simply type in #fb at the end and it appears (sans the #fb) in my Facebook status.
It sounds like a minor complaint. But it’s not. Just because the tool is available, doesn’t mean it’s a good tool to use. It may take us a little bit longer to post thoughts or information to the various social media sites we utilize, but it’s the difference between communicating with our audiences in the ways in which they like to be communicated, and confusing and/or annoying them. We choose to put in the extra work. We prefer to do the translations.
By the way, apparently the Chevy Nova story is an urban legend that marketing professors like to use to emphasize the point.