Marco's Rules; number 1. If you are afraid of writing a post, it probably means it is worth writing it.

A first note, I do not agree with the term “social media” I use it due to the lack of a better concept for the online discourse.

The Context

In Portugal, according to the National Statistics Institute, in 2005 99% of companies fell under the description of Small and Medium Sized Business (SMB), most of which are actually Micro Companies.

These companies account for 75% of employment and 56% of the national business volume. To make this perspective complete, I recently found out that only about 45% of people living in Portugal use the internet.

I don’t have data about non profit or government organisations, but otherwise, this is the panorama where we are practising Public Relations.

Recent news articles are following the trend of social media hype, showing how Twitter, Facebook and Hi5 have such a high number of users and explaining that the internet is a great channel, for low cost and high return communication.

I do not think that this is the case. We can’t and should not look at social media or online social networks as broadcast channels, akin to the television or newspapers, but that is the idea being sent across to companies.

The Missed Opportunity

With their heads filled by the news of a new medium big companies, those 1% mentioned earlier, are asking communication agencies for social media without really knowing what it is about. As a response, communication agencies are investing a great deal of time and money in training, at such a fast pace that some aspects are left behind.

But the goal of agencies in Portugal seems clear: to provide customers with tactics in an attempt to give them what they want.

We all tend to confuse what we want with what we need.

A look at online newspapers who focus on the Public Relations and Marketing sector shows exactly that, companies are focusing mostly on tactics and operations rather than on a solid strategy.

So, marketing is on the rise and you will clearly see social media being used to broadcast rather than to engage in dialog. The messages all seem to focus on sales and social media tactics being used are no more than the application of old principles in new channels.

From my perspective this is not a pleasant scenario, at all.

But if we stop for a moment, and take a look at weaker signals, there is hope. Although those 99% of small and medium sized companies do not have resources or PR training, a very small number of them is showing a posture of dialogue. Some of these companies provide web services, so it makes perfect sense. And even tough they lack a Strategy, they at least act with heart.

Business as usual

This is up for debate of course, but the general idea is that in Portugal companies and agencies simply “don’t get it”. And rather than aim for medium to long term results, both focus on tactics and operations that lead to quick results.

Communication agencies, however, have the global partnerships and background to change the game and assist their clients in building a social media strategy. But the truth is that undertaking that task is not easy and no one is willing to take the risk.

And even though giving the customer what he wants means not providing a good service, Business as usual still pays the bills.

But lets go back to those 99%. I believe that they will be the ones breaking the status quo. With a country made almost entirely of SMB’s a few will no doubt make it big, and turn to communication agencies in search for a way to manage their online presence and relationships. It will be the end of the one-shot business model, or at least I hope so.

Up For Debate

So this is my perspective and as everything else in this blog, it is up for debate. Here, on friendfeed or twitter (I will be monitoring the #ptpr tag) or anywhere else for that matter.