Does Social Media 2.0 deserve a second life?

Okay, okay, so I’ve already weighed in on the question, “Is the Social Media Press Release a Meatball Sundae?” Last November, I provided four pieces of empirical evidence that demonstrated that social media press releases are the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas.

Now, I’ve been asked to take a look at today’s announcement by Marketwire of Social Media 2.0, or what the newswire calls, “the industry’s most authentic and comprehensive social media newswire product.”

The Marketwire Tower in Second Life

According to Marketwire, “Social Media 2.0 advances today’s press release format, offers public relations professionals a multitude of content options, and distributes news in a variety of mediums to distribution channels beyond traditional media distribution networks.”

Now, you might think I’ve pre-judged Social Media 2.0. But, I haven’t.

As I wrote way back in May 2003, “Failure is an option.” SEO-PR’s initial efforts to create optimized press releases didn’t produce instant success. But, as I wrote almost five years ago, “It was our approach to PR measurement, which tracked precisely what worked and what didn’t work, (that) enabled all of us to discover the formula for long-term success.”

So, my initial take on Social Media 2.0 will be to test it, test it, and test it again. Believe it or not, I agree with Bob Geller, an SVP at Fusion Public Relations, who wrote in Flack’s Revenge, “At the end of the day, the %#@!!&& things either work or they don’t.”

Amen, brother.

So, here are some of the “exclusive features” of Social Media 2.0 that have caught my attention:
• Distribution to more than 1,200 in-network geographically targeted websites.
• Distribution to YouTube, iTunes, Second Life, Pheedo, Photobucket and Twitter.
• In-release performance statistics on search engine cataloging.
• Trackbacks for easy monitoring of online performance.
Search engine, Technorati and Digg results.

In other words, there’s a nice mix of new distribution options and PR measurement tools. This will enable me to tell if “Social Media 2.0 offers increased social network visibility to a prospective audience of more than 200 million Internet users.” If it does, that would be very cool.

On the other hand, I’m still skeptical that “Social Media 2.0 transforms a press release into an authentic social media tool by enabling two-way conversation via an in-release comment box that feeds directly into a client-monitored online newsroom.”

Blogs do this exceptionally well. But most press releases – even many of ones that use the social media format – are written like essays, not interviews; broadcasts, not conversations; lectures, not discussions. So, while adding social media elements to blogs generally works, adding them to press releases typically haven’t up to now.

This, of course, can change.

As Kevin Dill, social and multimedia product manager, Marketwire, says in today’s announcement, “The social media release is an invitation for dialogue based on social media elements. Marketwire’s Social Media 2.0 expands upon that idea, taking that dialogue to the next level by allowing conversation to be initiated at the press release level.”

And, as Todd Defren, principal, SHIFT Communications, adds, “The democratization of news is the singular principle behind the Social Media News Release. By allowing anyone to access, re-purpose and engage directly with a newsmaker’s content, the SMNR empowers conversations between a company and its diverse user communities.”

So, if early versions of the social media press release were the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas, let’s give Social Media 2.0 the benefit of the doubt. It deserves a “second life.”

How will we discover if Social Media 2.0 provides us with increased Internet visibility and greater search engine performance for our news? As I wrote back in May 2003, the only way to find out is to “Measure, measure, measure and measure some more.”

Or, as Bob Geller put it so eloquently last November: “At the end of the day, the %#@!!&& things either work or they don’t.”

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