Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr. What do all these websites have in common? For one, they’re all indispensable marketing tools – absolute must-haves for the business in which we work. For another, none of them existed before 2003.
I would never argue against using the newest and best technologies to tell brand stories. PR is all about finding ways to reach new audiences, so clearly taking away even one social media platform would put any campaign at a disadvantage. But social media needs to be paried with other channels, especially when it comes to our sources of inspiration as marketing professionals.
In an amazing speech to West Point’s 2010 plebe class, Yale English Professor William Deresiewicz makes the case for occasional solitude as a crucial ingredient for leadership. Great leadership, Deresiewicz says, requires creativity, and too muc h multitasking impairs our ability to really, truly think. He stresses his definition of “thinking,” something he believes people in today’s world get wrong far too often: “Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it.”
As often as we find ourselves in the thick of things, designing and executing social media campaigns for our clients, it’s an enormous challenge not to become social media over-consumers ourselves. Even as I write this blog post I’m bombarded by blinking gchat messages and new tweets begging to be loaded. Can I come up with my best work, creatively, with these distractions on my mind? Deresiewicz says no, and I’m inclined to agree with him: “You simply cannot [think] in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.”
So what’s the solution? Creativity is the core of every service that marketing and PR agencies offer their clients. We can’t ignore social media – far from it – but we also can’t stand idly by as the temptations of Facebook and Twitter rob our ability to think. The answer will be different for everyone, but it’s crucial that we all find a few temporary reprieves from the social media world over the course of each day. Whether it’s a walk around the block, shutting off your internet connection for 45 minutes, or merely closing all browsers and hiding your iPhone as you work on a blog post, there’s an answer out there for all of us.
Social media only stands to become a bigger and more important aspect of our job, so now is the time to relearn how to think creatively. Otherwise it might be gone forever.
Contributed by Jake Navarro. Follow him @JakeMNavarro
Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, user: Horia Varlan.