It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see posts titled "The Role of Ethical Brands in a Down Economy," "The Four Social Media Questions You Must Answer During an Economic Downturn," "In A Down Economy, Tomorrow’s Leaders Are Born Today," "Will Social Media Help PR Weather the Storm," and "25 Ways Social Media Prepares You for a Social Media Downturn." All of these respected marketers have the recession in mind (image by collective nouns).
There were some great insights in these articles, most of which I liked Todd Defren’s statistical based analysis showing online marketing will be the bright spot in communications. I disagreed w/ some of Chris Brogan’s 25 ways (though I love Chris), but mostly because no one knows how social media functions and works in a recession. I think reliance on brass tacks, on hard core value building and ROI is what matters now.
What is clear: This new media world will see an even stronger focus from corporate as big ad spends get cut and marketers seek guerilla oriented tactics. But things will change, and online communicators are going to be forced to act differently.
I’ve been through one of these before, in the telecom industry which suffered an industry specific depression from 2000-2. During that time I actually excelled and grew a book of business, keeping more than a dozen of my fellows employed. So while I will be deploying social media for the first time in a recession, I’ve got a few experiences that are guiding my thoughts during this particular time:
Here are five ways I anticipate this recession will affect us:
1) ROI must become the song. If you can’t measure or you think page impressions represents an accurate measurement for marketing communications initiatives, mail it in. No company will engage in that anymore. Integration with calls to action must be used to produce tangible results.
2) Similarly, social media consultants will be forced to produce or they will bomb. Now more than ever it’s about ROI, not Facebook friends.
3) Independent, positive thinkers will do better. They will not be susceptible to media driven BS and fear mongering. Consider this ridiculous CCN story that liberally uses poll terms to claim 60% of Americans say depression is likely. Talk about tabloid journalism. Yet, these stories can inspire panic and that is the great challenge.
Rich Becker makes a good point, "When economic times seem tough, you tend to want to work with those who seem largely unaffected." In his post, he was speaking about the newspaper industry, but it may as well be your company. Executives and individuals will need to wield a sober, pragmatic approach to the market, and provide actionable ways to grow their business. More than anything people and cultures that win will be the positive ones with real value to offer their employers, their clients and the world in general.
4) It’s time for millenials to grow up in the workplace. This is Gen Y’s first recession, and to date they have shown heavy demands for senior executive access and mentorship, lifestyle choices, collaboration, high salaries, plush bennies, transitory career paths, and steady, significant pay increases. More than anything it has been incumbent on employers to attract and retain them with these many cultural aspects. Well, the coin has flipped. In tough times, it’s incumbent on the employee to prove value, not the employer. I sense that many over-privileged divas are heading for a rude awakening.
5) More noise. As companies abandon traditional, costly tactics and crowd the marketplace with their new social media initiatives we will likely see a new nightmare of corporate crud. Social media initiatives must offer immediate, clear strong value to communities, or they will click and flee. Substance is paramount! Tolerance for BS gimmicks will evaporate. Last recession, a similar noise level occurred with email marketing, that time’s cheap marketing elixir.
A Time of Pain
Regardless of how social media fares as a sub sector, I believe from a societal perspective that this will be a widespread recession that will take a good long time to get better. Poor fiduciary lending has affected our entire financial industry and in ways that we’ve not seen in modern times before under the Federal Reserve. This will impact all businesses and all sectors, from credit to actual sales. My prayers and thoughts are with those who will be affected.
Further, more than any economic downturn in my life, this will hurt the lower middle income and low income classes. Consider the impact high heating costs, transportation costs, lost jobs from construction, cut state spending, etc., will make on blue collar America.
There will be great challenges ahead that supersede "making money," and I encourage readers to think about what we can do to help as individuals. It is a time for charity, a time for helping brothers and sisters regardless of race, creed, class, religion. Economic pain affects all, and no American should go hungry.