The Fifth Estate

Every month one of us HMA’ers reads a book that is related to our industry and reports back on the findings – our own little HMA Book Club (except we spare the whole group from reading the same thing).

After putting this off for some time not being able to find anything that truly interested me, Abbie handed over “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” by Geoff Livingston as something that may be an interesting read.

Let me start off by saying I do not like reading books on social media. I’m not hating on Mr. Livingston specifically, as he is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject, but my dislike for these types of books stems from the following:

  1. Everyone thinks they’re an “expert.” I could write a book on social media and guess what? It’d say the same thing all the other ones say, just in a different way, using different metaphors or siting examples from different case studies.
  2. A book on social media always has more excerpts from other people’s books than any of the author’s own earth-shattering social media insights (which was also the case with “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” – footnotes anyone??).
  3. It is part of our business to know the ins and outs of social media, so while these books may serve as a nice little reminder and have cute graphs, it’s nothing we in the communications field have never heard/seen before.
  4. Social media technology, platforms and trends are evolving at the speed of light. While a book on PR may still be relevant in a year, a social media book will be old hat in a month.

On that note, here are some take-aways from “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” for you social media newbies that can also serve as a refresher for you #socialmedia pros:

The Estates:

As many of you may know, the “Fourth Estate,” which refers to news media (TV, print, radio, etc.), was coined from the original three Estates of the Realm dating back to pre-revolutionary France. The First Estate being the clergy, the Second Estate being nobility and the Third being the people. With blogging, social media and YouTube, many people are now breaking news before the Fourth Estate, which is where Livingston coins the Fifth Estate as being citizen media – pretty right on if you ask me.

  • Fun fact (which was also a footnote): most forms of traditional media (the Fourth Estate) are only trusted by 30% of the population. Almost staggering when it’s our job as PR people to place stories within Fourth Estate outlets.

The Take-Aways:

Before engaging in social media a company must do the following:

  • Listen to your stakeholders first so you’re prepared when entering the social media conversation
  • Engagement must be ongoing
  • The 5th Estate expects transparency, honesty and ethics
  • While having a “voice” and personality will gain trust from stakeholders, it can be bad if too personal; this must be a team effort.

Silos (PR or other departments tasked with managing social media) can sometimes undermine the model of the Fifth Estate, if not managing your social media correctly. People want to hear from people; not the legal department.

“Participation is marketing” (another footnote) – you must do more than just talk; become involved in the community than just being involved in the conversation.

You must befriend influencers for them to pass on the message. They gain content from their networks, not from some random person/company tweeting them.

“Build it and they will come” does not apply to social media.

Are you just sharing info or asking people to attend an event? You must engage, talk and reply to both influencers and the regulars alike.

Use measurement benchmarks (not the # of followers/fans) to gauge success or changes that need to be made to social media campaigns.

The SMART method of setting objectives, which should tell you how many, by when (for example, if your goal is to have 20 influencers tweeting about your event by 3 months prior to the event):

  • S: specific
  • M: measureable
  • A: attainable
  • R: relevant
  • T: time bound

Don’t put a value to friends/followers. The question isn’t how many friends but what do additional friends gain us?

  • Someone with a small motivated following may be more influential than someone with a vast but disconnected following.

Use a paid tool for measuring social media success.

Don’t become over-invested in one platform. Be ready to evolve.

  • Prime example here is MySpace. Here today, gone tomorrow.

The next big thing: mobility (check out on your smart phone for a great example).

Remain open to new influencers; they’re changing just as fast as the technology.

Now, what do you think Mr. Livingston may have missed when it comes to creating social media strategies? Any tactics you’d like to add in?

Written by
at Nov 10, 2011

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