by Paula on March 7, 2011

Spent the afternoon with some family members yesterday than included a policeman. Hearing him rant about the evil that is Facebook made me inwardly pray that no-one brings up the fact that in my work I actually encourage certain businesses to discover and use Facebook!

It’s a sad fact that in modern day policing most of the people you deal with will be reminding you of the bad side of life (and the rest of the people will likely be victims…) but it’s the people, not the tools that are the issue. It’s rife in the media: Facebook being blamed for bullying, Twitter being blamed for Middle East Revolutions, the Internet being blamed for Attention Deficit Withdrawal in children. Sadly it’s the media reporting of this that leads some people to turn away from all the positive benefits social networks can bring too.

Having the opportunity to connect and communicate with a wider (and select) group of people can enhance our offline relationships not ruin them. Reaching out to a new audience can grow and develop your business, not signal it’s demise. What we must be careful of, is blaming problems in society, schools, relationships and health on the tools that people who suffer are using. These problems existed before Social Networks and will exist after, they just materialise in different ways.

It reminds me of a ‘Patient Participation Group’ I attended at my local Doctor’s surgery, as they wanted someone under they age of 70 to contribute to their discussions. The group were debating why no-one had attended their ‘Children’s Health’ workshop and didn’t parents care about their children’s health anymore.(??!) I politely asked where they’d advertised it, as being a local and a Mum I’d surely be their target audience and I knew nothing of it. I was sharply told it had been advertised in the local surgery (I hadn’t been there as no-one was ill!) and a poster in the Post Office window, another place I hadn’t been.

I then made 2 mistakes:

Mistake 1: I suggested that maybe if these type of events were regular they could use some online marketing, advertise them via their website, or potentially post on local FB pages to create awareness. Maybe they school could put it on their website if it was child-related etc.

Mistake 2: I suggested they consider their audience and whether this type of presentation-style session would be required by that audience. For example their next presentation was on breast cancer. Again as a target audience member I have to say that I probably wouldn’t attend. I get my health facts from trusted websites, and if I have a personal health issue I visit the Doctor.

Oh my, I might as well have said I am directly related to the devil! An elderly lady in perfect timing with the furious nodding of the rest of the seniors, let rip at me:

“That’s the problem with young people of today. You sit at home, in front of a flickering screen and you never go out. You look at all that filth and nonsense on the internet and think that’s the answer. In my day we actually got out and talked to people and had friends. No wonder society is in decline.”

Ahem….I’m not that young, I have many friends, I regularly go out, and I don’t make a habit of reading filth…but some battles you just know you won’t win, so I have never attended these sessions again. I have too little time and energy to volunteer my time where it’s not welcomed.

The message here, after all this rambing, is this: Know your target audience and aim your marketing activity at them. Don’t tailor it to what you as a distributor of information would require. And secondly, don’t blame the internet or Social Networks for all of life’s problems. Positive stories about Social Media might not create as much outrage but please, let’s have some balance!

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