How do we need to think about Social Media?

I was asked last night for my thoughts on where is Social Media is headed? What’s going to be next? My friend expected me to say, “I love this new app or there is a great new social platform she must try that’s really going to change her life.” Sorry that’s not my answer. Social isn’t about an APP, a network, a tweet or a Facebook page.

Here’s an insight, it’s not about PR and it’s not about marketing and it’s not about advertising. This isn’t fun, it’s not a game or something that must be gamified (not sure that’s a real word), nor is it easy to succeed. This is about social interaction. It’s about the principles that the great sociologists; Pierre Bourdieu, Herbert Spencer and George Herbert Mead, defined over the past years. Study them a little bit to understand Social Media. It’s about how and why humans interact. When we understand this, and only when we understand this will we be successful Social Media professionals. I see progress in this direction everyday but it all starts with education, passion and intellect. The easy path, the obvious path won’t accomplish your or your companies’ missions.

We have a name problem. Social Media isn’t really media at all. Media is something you buy. What we do is influence. Whoever named this space did all Social Media professionals a disservice. The agency, Razorfish, has come the closest to getting the name correct. They have coined the term Social Influence. I liken what we do as social professionals as going to a networking cocktail party. If I wear my badge and expect people to come talk to me, it will be a long evening. If I greet someone with a, “Hi, I’m Steve, you should buy my widget”, or “Hi, come to my store, I’m having a sale” or these are my hour or my specials or here is a coupon, I will be ignored. It’s all about very basic and simple communication so friends or potential new friends know what my business is up to. It’s done one-on-one and personal.

Social channels are more scalable. Information moves faster, impacts more people exponentially and influence spreads before we no it, it’s not controllable. Think about what would be if our great leaders like George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. or Paul Revere had social channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread their messages quicker and influence more people? Paul would have gotten good night sleep. Dr. King would have spread his dream to all corners of the world, in real time. They had important messages that “end-users” needed to hear. Today, we can start changing the world quicker, just ask Tunisia or Egypt, but don’t forget social media was just the delivery channel, the message of one man in the street is what started the revolutions.

We need to be more accountable. From individuals, to influencers, government and media, we must start taking this new way of communicating more seriously. It is 24/7, 365 days a year. During the Japanese earthquake and tsunami CNN’s twitter account went MIA for a few hours during the most crucial timeframe. We can’t get that time back. CNN television did not go down for a few hours, but their Twitter account did! The CNN Twitter bio says they will bring breaking world news to more than 2 million people. Unfortunately not when people needed it most.

We must keep pushing the boundaries of what these channels can be used for. Its no secret social change is among us. How are you approaching it?

Steve Rockman


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