Social media is fundamentally about relationships. I mean it's about being social, right? But like all relationships, be it family, personal or work, there are those that are good, bad and just plain useless. The same applies to social media, especially between bloggers and PRs.
So when is the relationship good for bloggers? When the PR involved remembers that the blogger is also a person. They don't simply see bloggers as promotion tools. They think long term and about building relationships with them. And like any healthy relationship, they nurture them. Sometimes we go for a drink. The other day I had lunch with one. It's not about discussing anything current but simply getting to know each other and who knows, maybe preparing for the possibility of a future together. Needless to say, this is my favourite kind of relationship because the socialising happens offline as it does online. Or to put it simply, it is very real.
And what about the bad? Imagine dating someone who only calls you up when they want one thing. You could call this a booty call I suppose. Or perhaps they want something else. Either way it's one sided because when you send them an email, they ignore it. Or when you express a sentiment, they express condolences but later ignore the false promise they had just made to you. Given these circumstances, most people would dump the other half or else the situation could become very unhappy for them. Yet this type of relationship isn't restricted to the bedroom, it also exists within the social media arena.
I remember once receiving an invite to review a restaurant, which was accompanied by an apology for not responding to an email I had sent a short while back about a press release the PR had initially sent me. The review was arranged for the day before my holiday, much to my reluctance and when I arrived at the restaurant, I discovered that the food festival, which I was supposed to be covering wasn't actually happening until the following week. Needless to say, I didn't hang around and chose somewhere more salubrious to eat that evening. The next day, on my way to the airport, I wrote a polite but firm email expressing my views on the situation. I received huge apologies back as well as the promise of a meal and a hamper when I returned. But after forwarding my details, I didn't hear anything else. Well not until the next press release was due. This time it was for the re-launch of a pub which I was invited to but didn't attend. Whilst I am happy to accept invitations from other members of this PR firm, my relationship with the individual has soured. After all, I've had my fair share of bad relationships and now I hear alarm bells when I'm being taken advantage of. Plus the PR is getting paid a healthy sum to get someone like me to write about their restaurant. So why should I contribute to their coffers whilst being treated like a booty call?
As for the incompetent PRs, I'm just not so sure they know what they're doing. They're the ones who include my Twitter account in tweets for an RT. Yet they don't even consider the notion of building a relationship with me; be it good or bad. They don't even respond to my tweets, which I address to them. And they're the ones who expect me to jump to, to write a piece for them irrespective of what my blog is actually about. They're also the ones who ask me to consider interviewing someone or writing a review, only to never get back to me. In this case, the communication is broken. And ironically, the two essential services a PR provides for their client isn't extended to us mere bloggers, which makes them short sighted.
Social media is still in its infancy. We still don't know where it is heading and which platforms will have so-called longevity. Already trends for 2012 are being discussed and the likes of Pin Interest and Instagram are being rumoured as the next big thing with mobile social networking leading the way. If this were the case, surely it would be in the PR's best interest to develop healthy relationships with those at the forefront of social networking: the ones who are actually doing it. By that I mean us bloggers.
Next week, I'll be taking turning the spotlight onto 'us bloggers'.