I’ve noted an interesting quirk among traditional media today. Circulation and listenership are declining. Resources and staff are being slashed. And yet there are neverending declarations from these institutions about embracing the future and adapting to the hyper-active, social networking era to retain consumers and remain relevant.

Is it actually happening? Nope. There’s lots of talk about doing it. But not a lot of evidence to support it. In the medium to smaller traditional media markets it’s especially apparent.

Much has been written about the future of traditional media. Will newspapers cease to exist? Will radio stations remain relevant in a mp3-driven world?

Why is it worth noting the failings of traditional media in today’s social networking realm? It’s a living test-tube. You can see and learn from what’s happening in real time. Rarely do you see a brand struggle publicly with communicating when its core business is communicating to the public. Brands say they’re embracing the future. But the evidence tells a different story.

After spending several days scanning small to medium market traditional media outlets’ signature presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, here are a few observations that all revolve around similar themes:

1. The heavy reliance on twitter feeds has made most traditional media Twitter accounts one-sided, void of any consumer interaction. These are the signature accounts, representing the brand, yet they are little more than bots. Consumers don’t build relationships with bots. (Fortunately, some traditional media have exceptional journalists who tweet and interact. But these people are still NOT the brand.)

2. Facebook accounts that are selfish. Entry upon entry that is essentially an RSS feed of the latest headlines, solely designed to drive Facebook users back to corporate websites to get the full story. Facebook is designed to be a social networking platform to grow fans, friends and people who love your brand. Yet there is no networking by the brand. Consumer comments are rarely, if ever, acknowledged. Instead, consumers typically comment, like, and converse among themselves. It leaves you wondering if anyone from the traditional media outlet is ever actually looking at the corporate Facebook page. Probably not. After all, a bot is doing much of the work posting links and headlines.

3. Nobody’s listening. Nobody’s networking. Nobody’s sharing. It adds up to a lot of nobody doing nothing. On Twitter, for example, network-building initiatives such as #FollowFriday grow and connect followers. You’ll be hardpressed to find traditional media using methods like this. Journalists might. But the signature brand accounts of the outlets don’t. Same goes for RTs (a simple method to share information with other users). Mostly, you will find one-sided, bot-generated tweets. Most interactions, if you can find them, are between journalists (ie. colleagues), not the public. I eventually gave up trying to network with one medium market media brand on Twitter. There was never a single acknowledgement of any news I helped RT, or comment I shared with the brand. I took an extensive look at one traditional media outlet’s Twitter account and scanned literally hundreds upon hundreds of tweets. There wasn’t a single tweet that interacted with anyone. Not one. Nada. Zippo.

The above observations all point to the same failure: the inability to connect with audiences in a new era of how we communicate. It’s an especially critical error for traditional media. Audiences are attempting to reach out and connect. But they are not being embraced.  Soon, they will migrate to newer journalism models that will embrace them.

Take stock of your brand’s social networking efforts. Most importantly, evaluate whether you are really ‘communicating’ with your audience or not.

If the conversation is all one-sided, you’re failing miserably. Continue on this path at your own peril.