Harry Phillips' printing press circa 1910

If anyone can publish a blog, create a video or launch a meme, you’d think that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube would be the empires of the new, with the latest self-made stars forever in control of the cultural conversation.

And you’d be wrong.

A recent report from HP Labs confirms the exact opposite: the most popular sources of information on Twitter are actually traditional news media outlets like CNN, ESPN and (egad, a newspaper?) The New York Times.

Why?  Because people like to share information that impacts wide audiences, and because traditional media still has information-gathering resources and robust distribution platforms that “new” media can’t live without.

In other words, no matter how easy social media makes it to talk to others, people still need something to talk about.

Is that “something” your business?

It could be, if your brand is worth the buzz.  But even topical companies need more than just a social media hook to catch and hold an audience’s attention.

A tweet is gone in an instant.  A Facebook update crawls off the page and out of sight.  A YouTube video might be shared for weeks, months or years as new viewers continue to find it… but what’s driving them to it in the first place?

Periodic fame is always the cumulative result of widespread general awareness — and that includes mainstream publicity.  Is your company poised to take long-term advantage of short-term PR success?

Ask yourself:

  • Is your social media team working hand-in-hand with your traditional PR and marketing teams?  (Or, even better, are they fully integrated?)
  • Do you share your brand’s mainstream media mentions with your social media audiences?
  • Are you trumpeting your online successes in offline media?  (Don’t forget: newspapers and magazines still write about the Internet.)
  • Does your media contact list include reporters from all branches of journalism?
  • Do your print ads include icons and URLs where interested customers can find you on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.?

Remember: whether it’s physical or digital, all ink is good ink, as long as it gets people talking about you.

Image by Blue Mountains Library on Flickr.