I have a personal gripe with anyone who questions what Social Media can do for their business.
We toss around the words "Social Media" as if it's like saying, "I need a 30-second spot." It's a mistake. We keep on making it, and things have to start changing soon before it becomes a hollow term (or worse, a fad). Unlike other media channels, Social Media is many different types of content (text, images, audio and video) with many different types of platforms and channels on which the content plays out (Blogging, video sharing sites, virtual worlds, Podcasting, micro-Blogging, online social networks, photo sharing, mobile, widgets, apps, etc...). It's not push marketing and it's not pull marketing either, it's more of a group expression (to steal a concept that Clay Shirky discusses in his outstanding, best-selling business book, Here Comes Everybody) where a concept can be explored, shared, posted elsewhere, mashed-up, expanded upon or completely re-invented.
Sounds confusing? It is.
One person's Twitter feed is another person's spam pit. What works for a brand in Facebook might crash and burn on YouTube. Some people are still experiencing great ROI from their current efforts in Second Life, and while many are quick to call MySpace as dead as Friendster, there are many musicians, filmmakers, authors and artists who still have a healthy and robust community (that keeps on growing) on MySpace with no plans of slowing down.
Social Media isn't a fad, but big brands can make it look like it is.
We tend to measure the success of Social Media using traditional mass media metrics (audience size, amount of advertising revenue, etc...). We're getting it all wrong. Social Media is not about advertising... it's about Marketing. Authentic Marketing. Ethical Marketing. Social Media is about creating engagement with consumers and getting those that are uber-excited about your brand to connect even closer (to the brand and other denizens or evangelists). In essence, we're mining for the quality over quantity of people who can best connect to our brands, but we continually stumble into the mass media metrics trap.
Will big brands only care when Facebook has 500 million users?
Facebook recently surpassed 400 million users, and it's somewhat humorous (and a little bit tragic) to think that brands and marketers usually only care about a channel or opportunity when the masses are there (as if 10 million is paltry). The smarter brands are slowly weaning themselves off of this very traditional metric and are starting to look at who they are connected and not how many people they are connected to.
So, what's the big deal?
The old Web and traditional mass media were always about "eyes" - how many people were looking at the content (remember in the early days of the Web, how excited we all got over the amount "eyeballs" and "stickiness" our websites had?) Social Media changes the body parts from "eyes" to "hands". What are people doing with this content? What are they creating with it? How are they sharing it? How are they re-inventing and creating their own pieces of content around it?
It's a big deal. It's a big change.
Do your own brand analysis and figure out how much of your content, media and marketing can people simply look at with their eyes versus their ability to use their own two hands to really do stuff with it (and that includes very simple stuff like writing a short review)?
It's a great question to ask, and I wonder how many times it has been asked in the boardrooms across this great, big world?