My Unfiltered Thoughts On Social Media As Of Now
by Joseph Ratliff
This post might get a bit long.
I’ve been using social media sites and tools for a little while now, and while I would not consider myself a focused “expert” on the subject, I know enough about connecting with people and have experience using these tools to make a few observations and even an educated prediction or two (plus, I’m human…so…).
We’re still in the shiny object phase of using social media to engage, connect, market, and even conduct various business functions (customer service, sales, technical support…yes, more than just marketing). Being in the “shiny object” phase, there seems to still be misconceptions about social media and its impact on business and people.
Misconception #1 — “They Like me, they really really like me.”
No, they don’t really like you (unless you know them already).
People might click your “like” button, they might follow you on Twitter, they might share a LinkedIn post or something…but that’s really where the relationship ends if you haven’t connected with those people.
It’s good that they express interest, don’t get me wrong (you should develop that interest as well), but without meaningful personal connection with these folks as well…which is hard past approximately 150 people…that’s really it.
Coke has millions of likes on Facebook…but so what? Lots of people liked Coke before Facebook…and the brand was already really strong before Facebook.
Misconception #2 — “This new social network came out, so I MUST join it or face the consequences.”
Sometimes a particular network is a good idea for your business (or personal life)…and sometimes it isn’t. There are no “rules” (even for geeks) that state you must join a social network as an “early adopter” or be beheaded.
I personally have quite a few social network profiles…but have found I can only build genuine relationships by using a select few of them. Right now, I’m in the process of selecting what will be the “final 3″ networks you will be able to connect with me on.
Connecting for the sake of connecting is meaningless…it’s the true, personal and genuine connections with real people that count…period.
Business is about people. If more businesses (and marketers, namely in the online space) got that concept…the recession might have been an illusion.
We started out in caves, with nothing but meaningful connection on the most basic of needs (food, sex, water, community etc…). What have we evolved to? Since when did the personal connection get lost in favor of a Like button or some @reply?
Alright, enough with the misconceptions (more of those in other posts)…
Social media has also created a monster…and that monster is called The Social Media Expert.
Now, I’m not saying that all people who might specialize in the social media space are bad people. What I am saying, are that social media sites and the innovation of this connection medium have created “room” for a new type of what I call a “faux-industry” of sorts.
Let me explain…
Back in the early 1990′s (late 80′s and discussion boards for geeks like me), the Internet was born…and early adopters started selling “how to” stuff. This created a monster as well…the Internet Marketer. But the monster wasn’t the label, it was the treating the Internet Marketing opportunity as a business in and of itself. It isn’t a business.
The Internet is a tool folks, nothing more, and nothing less. It allows you to deliver content, stream video, and put up websites. In short, it’s really a sort of delivery device.
Yes, some businesses limit themselves to using the Internet for marketing their businesses…but the Internet is the delivery device for their marketing messages and content, it isn’t the business itself…want proof? If the Internet shut down, would these online marketers still have businesses? Nope. Putting all your eggs in one basket anyone?
Ok…now to social media…
Social Media started to become a focus for businesses around 2002 – 2007…and is now a growing phenomenon for small businesses. The allure of being able to connect directly with customers is appealing to business owners everywhere (obviously).
The problem is, it’s still a shiny object.
So…this created space for “The Social Media Expert.” People who are very skilled in using social media themselves and want to help businesses adapt to this new medium. Nothing wrong with that…except this:
Social Media isn’t an entire business strategy…it’s a set of tools…nothing more, nothing less.
Now the problem doesn’t lie with honest people, who’ve developed an honest means of helping people adapt to the medium…it’s with the dishonest (or perhaps overly enthusiastic?) people who advocate “you NEED social media to survive” or immediately claim “you NEED to be on Facebook” in order to survive in business marketing.
You don’t need either to survive in business so long as your business is serving it’s market effectively. That is a BIG concept that involves a LOT of moving parts, more than simply using social media as your end-all marketing toolbox.
Lead generation, customer service, technical support, marketing, back-end sales, joint ventures, follow-up, sales, management, accounting, legal, and on…and on…many moving parts to running a business.
If your business is doing fine without social media, then don’t use it unless you’re scaled up to handle it as a “department”…because just having a Facebook Fan Page isn’t enough. You have to be able to support it and get return on investment of time and resources from your business in order to justify having one.
I think this big, shiny object of social media has distracted us as business owners from the fact that ROI (Return On Investment) is important, next to serving the people who support your business of course.
Moving on to a different thought about social media…
I think we’re heading for a social media crash of sorts, because businesses cannot be built on top of other businesses (another reason why you can’t use only Social Media to build a business…unless you own the network itself). If Zuck invades privacy, or pisses the masses off for some reason…yes Facebook could in fact be shut down, although the process would take a number of years IMO.
From a consumer point of view, I think we are starting to get to the “noise” part of social media development. There are now 4 really big players (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn) vying for our attention to join them…and within each (in case you haven’t noticed) there is a bunch of noise, effort, and connection with people and media.
Noise x 4 = Holy Crap! How many networks do I need to be a part of?
We’re all humans, with the same 24 hours in a day…so let’s start to at least think about how best to use this new medium to engage people…with real engagement, not just “button-press” friends, ok?
History repeats itself people, we were all enamored with radio, TV, the Internet, cell phones, now social media (with a new addition, mobile web apps). Every one of those innovations has since lost its luster. Social Media will too.
(UPDATE: Some think social media fatigue is a “myth”…but I hold to my so-called crystal ball that we will eventually get tired of having so-many choices and so-much connection as humans)
So, if you’re a consumer, consider the personal connection with real people unless you have a LOT of time on your hands or just LOVE spending time on the Internet. You cannot have a real, personal connection with 5000 people (about 150 is said to be the rule by a number of sources).
If you’re a business owner, think in terms of “dilution.” Every time you involve another tool in your marketing mix, even if you’re scaled up and staffed to use that tool…you still dilute your company a bit (unless your products or services are built for many people, like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, General Electric, etc…).
I realize this was a longer post, thank you for reading. If you feel it helped you, please share it with others using the networks below: