By Leo Valiquette

Pondering the place of social media in the marketing and PR toolkit has been a familiar theme on this blog as the industry as a whole attempts to understand how best to approach and manage audience engagement with such a dynamic, informal and immediate variety of channels as those that fit under the general heading of Web 2.0. (Or maybe we’ve already moved on into Web 3.0. Who can keep track?)

Should you blog? Should you tweet? Should a company hang out its dirty laundry for all to see? To whom can companies turn for advice and how can they validate the credentials and experience of those who claim to be the gurus with the answers?

It’s a pickle, for certain, and one that will only weigh more and more on the minds of companies through 2009 as they struggle to build awareness of their brand and their value proposition as recessionary pressures nibble away at the bottom line.

I’ve come across an interesting array of perspectives and opinions on these matters over the past couple of days.

Beth Harte explores the question, Is social media the same as marketing? and reaffirms the most basic precept: Social media is best considered and approached as one part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Her post also raises the quite valid concern about carpetbaggers who claim to be experts in the area.

Robert Geller writes about how pervasive social media tools such as Twitter have become, emphasizing his point with the example of how it is being used by the Israeli government as a communications tactic in its latest flare up with Hamas and the Palestinians.

But a social media tool’s popularity can pose problems, even security risks, for those who use it. As we have seen this week, Twitter’s success has attracted the attention of those with malicious intent. Terry Sweeney writes about how “the public nature of Twitter — like Facebook or web mail or P2P file-sharing sites — means it offers a rich petri dish for online mischief,” which has left the service scrambling to save face. And while this may not be sufficient reason to abandon the service, Terry suggests it warrants a hard look at what benefit can be derived from Twitter before jumping on board.

All that matters in the end is understanding your business, the audience you are trying to reach and using only those tools or tactics that make sense as an effective means to achieve your business development and customer service objectives. What’s hot is irrelevant.

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