Is Being Too Social Ruining Social Media?


I was reading an article on MSNBC recently about Groupon and the tag line to the piece was the following:

“When everything’s social, nothing is.”

Which gave me pause to think.  What happens when you have so many options to do something or buy something or say something or share something in social? Is there a tipping point looming here where eventually everyone tires of being so social?

I actually think so.

It’s not going to happen yet, but as I was made aware in a comment on a post I wrote about social media bubbles-“there is a bubble, it’s just different”. So with that assumptive comment in hand, which in hindsight I now agree with. I think it is safe to say that eventually we as a social world will tire of being so social with each other. There’s just too many choices and it’s not decreasing anytime soon.

There will come a time where we just won’t want to share, chat, upload, download, friend, follow, or like from a social standpoint, a mobile standpoint, and a mobile social standpoint. It’s inevitable.  If we produce too much of something (i.e. social networks) then demand goes down right? We’re going to burn ourselves out. Let’s look at this another way.

Being social on the web is not a utility, but a lot of us use the social web from a utilitarian standpoint.  They are two distinct things. But when they start to bleed into each other, that requires more time, and for most of us, time is still a commodity.

When social first came on the scene, the amount of networks were few and far between. Eventually more and more copycat type of networks emerged as the boom spread far and wide. The Big boys i.e. the Facebooks, the Youtubes, The Twitters and even the Myspace’s of the world enjoyed the rush. But as we head toward 800 million users on Facebook and we see stuff like this graph from Ken Burbary, we realize that we truly are in an age of “digital enamorment”.

Eventually there will be a correction where we pare down our networks and we start to refine who our connections are with, and what they stand for. Right now we’re too enamored with social to see that. As things progress we’ll soon realize that there is indeed a bit of truth to Dunbar’s number about limits to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships with. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. The number sits at 150 and ironically Dunbar did not figure online social networks into the mix.

Your goal? Develop and refine the networks you’re in and remember Facebook isn’t your network, it’s your platform. Who you are connected to within Facebook is your network.

The Secret Sauce of Social Networks

What is the secret sauce of a social network? What do you think it is? What motivates people in your networks? What motivates you? Right now, companies are obsessed with or have deduced that the only way to grab market share in social  is to incent their customers into doing something-give them something. Reward them. But at some point a social loss leader strategy will waver because of the weight of constant escalating consumer expectations.

Over the weekend, I was asked the following question on Formspring

“How can media organization encourage more readers to post and more thoughtful comments? Alternatively, what determines when you will take a few minutes to post a comment to a story online?”

Great questions, don’t you think? It’s the burning question that every marketer wants to know.They are constantly asking themselves how can we get people in and keep them in?

It’s all about participation. It has to fit for YOU. It has to be the right platform for YOU and your voice and YOU have to have a desire to be heard. We’re all looking for our tribes every day online. And it starts with the fit, it starts with finding your voice and it starts with wanting to be heard.

Does Social Media Own You?


Recently I was asked by a school administrator whether Facebook should be used as the platform for communication with another school in another part of the world. Great Idea but I can think of a better one and here’s why.

This morning I was reading an article by David Rogers about whether it was time to shut down your website and go social instead. He measures the benefits of having a social presence versus  just a static web presence. Yet one of the points that he made and its one that I have maintained for a while now is this:

Social might be the cool new alternative to a static web presence but what If Facebook, Twitter and Youtube go away tomorrow? I know it seems farfetched, but the point is, what would you do? To Rogers point he states the following as a benefit to the old school web site. And it’s simple really. Own the data.

Social media platforms are owned by the companies that run them, and, as such, they are the only ones holding all the data on your customers and your interactions with them. On your own website, you own all the data.”

The point I made to the administrator was this. Facebook is cool but why not create a proprietary channel in which you own and control the data? Create a profile that is more indigenous of the classroom, the subject matter and the student instead of relying on a profile that reveals  whether a student is in a relationship or not.

We need to take our lips off of the baby bottle that is the big 3 of Social Media(Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) and own the data and own the channel. We need to quit treating Facebook like a crack pipe that no one seems to be able to put down. Own the data and control the channel and the better you can control the platform.

The Voice of the Social Employee Inside the Firewall

In doing some recent research and “listening” to the voice of the customer lately on behalf of clients, it dawned on me that we really don’t talk much about the “voice of the employee”. Sure we talk about employee empowerment and internal ideation at some cool sexy companies that are doing “that”, but for most, the employee doesn’t get the type of play that it deserves. Up to now, we really haven’t given it an official name. For now on, I’m going to call it Voice of the “social” Employee.

For some organizations they will stress how important the employee is and then do nothing about it-call it lip service, while others actually put their money where their mouth is. However, if companies were all about their employees, why would 84%% of all employees in the workforce be looking for a job right in 2011?  Yes, part of that is attributed to an economy on the rebound but the other part of that equation has to be linked to factors such as genuine dissatisfaction.

For some of the dissatisfied, it just might not be a good fit and that happens, but what of the 84% who feel that the organization just  doesn’t care about them? How do you change that as a C level executive? Does any amount of internal collaborative software or initiatives bolster the morale of a disenfranchised employee? Can an internal socially powered ideation platform or network empower and propel an employee into massive production and an upbeat morale?

Does social media offer the panacea to an employee who feels that he is not being paid what he is worth?  Does social give a voice to the employee who isn’t happy? Does social soften the feelings of the employee who thinks that the company doesn’t care about them? Depends on whether they choose to voice that attitude in front of or behind the firewall. Right? In general, dissatisfaction voiced in front of the firewall results in a quick exit strategy-which is where most of today’s “social employees” reside.

Social media can do a lot of things especially in the worlds of awareness, HR, sales, marketing, PR and communication but it may not help when it comes to the employee who feels that they are not getting anywhere.  Consider the following three very general examples:

  • Sure, it’s great for sourcing new ideas but what happens when Betty in accounting can’t stand Fred in the cubicle next to her and Fred stalks her in all of her social networks both internally and externally? Does Betty complain openly on Facebook?
  • How does social enable Juan in shipping who busts his ass and yet no one notices because he’s so quiet and chooses not to use that hot new internal platform? How can a company leverage that through an internal social platform?
  • Roger in sales has devised a great way to save the company money but it involves using social media and might eliminate some positions-should he do it?

The voice of the employee is 10 times different than the voice of the customer. It’s layered in nuance, context and politics. You can’t serve the voice of the customer until you address the voice of the employee first.

We want our employees to be more social internally and to create bonds and ties and networks-but employees need to see the value to them and not necessarily to the company. There is the intrinsic value of participation for participation sake and of course there is the mandate of participation-but aren’t those basically disingenuous? What type of quality of participation can we actually expect?

One could say that the best way to motivate would be to incentivize.  And in a way Zynga struck a nerve when it realized that social network growth and app saturation could be wrapped around and tied to gaming-people like to be challenged, they like to be entertained and they like to be rewarded. Taken a step further if you were to look at Gowalla and Foursquare, and why they are/were successful-it’s based on the notion of a reward system-earning badges for “checking in”.

But I digress with this parting question. How can we empower, reward and engage our employees to higher levels using some of the basic success tenets of social media? We’re asking the backbone of our organizations to utilize social networks and tools to engage the customer and give the customer a voice but in the same breath we may be taking it away from our employees. We may be unknowingly muting and muzzling our employees for the sake of the customer and creating an opportunity for them to take “it” outside of the firewall.

The Distraction Economy

I admit I have some sort of Social Media ADD but it’s not my fault. I blame it on the emergence of multi-platform, multi-channel and multi-device access to me, to you and to them. There are too many places to find content, curate content, share content and consume content. There are too many places to have conversations, to read conversations and to lurk without having conversations.  I can’t scale and neither can you.

This has nothing to do with Dunbar’s number.  Dunbar was talking about relationships, I’m talking about the pull for your attention. It’s funny, but the reality is that it isn’t as much about me or you as  you might think it is. The desire to have you “In  Network”  is as much about YOU as it is about your personal data.  It might not even be predicated on your actual participation as much as you might think. But nevertheless, at the end of the day-Your presence, your bio, your participation, your video, your pic, your blog post, your quote, your tweet, your status update, your opinion, your recommendation, and or your location is what’s needed. Today. Right Now.

This isn’t the attention economy, this is the “Distraction Economy”.  You know I’m right, you just don’t have time to respond, but you’ll probably share this and maybe tweet it.

There are no take backs in social media…

 

Originally I was going to write about how NFL players not playing this past Sunday were tweeting during the NFC championship game about  how Quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to NOT want to go back in the game because of a perceived injury to his knee, how he was not tough, how he was soft, how he lacked heart. Little did they know that he was actually hurt. They were reacting more to his body language, to what the camera showed us or by what was being said or not said during the telecast. Little did they know that thousands were reading what they were tweeting.

I was going to talk about how the players NOT PLAYING  tweeted things I’m sure in hindsight they wish they could have taken back about one of their peers. How they didn’t know the impact this was going to have. How Jay Cutler couldn’t even defend himself given that the game was going on. It was compounded by how quickly it became viral over the course of the next 24-48 hours. Some players retracted what they said through additional tweets AFTERWARDS but the fact of the matter was that the tweets are there to be seen, searched and read by thousands. FOREVER!

Well if this authority figure or this well known former or current player said it or thought it or tweeted it, it must be right? It must be true. Right???

Yep I was going to talk about how athletes should be careful of what they say about themselves or others especially on social networks. Until it happened to me. This is one of those valuable lessons that includes more than public figures. It’s about you and me and how we treat others. And I feel awful about it. Let me give you a quick background.

I joined a private group in Facebook. It was a fun irreverent group of like minded professionals initially talking about the stuff, the challeneges , and the issues we face every day. But the tone of the group slowly shifted or evolved into something I didn’t really recognize anymore. I felt somewhat uneasy about the change and actually thought about leaving the group prior to; but I still fired up the machine to see what was being talked about and to contribute.

What happened was I got caught up in the bashing of a colleague and peer who I have respect for. He wasn’t there to defend himself. He wasn’t part of the group. It wasn’t fair. It’s one thing to critique a blog post-Hey we all write crappy ones from time to time, but taking it down a notch was not fair. I didn’t defend him, I joined in and kicked him too! It was there for people to read and comment on what I said. Most didn’t notice but I did. It’s bothered me ever since.  I know better. Not just the fact that it was on a social network but this has to do with civility and respect.

Afterwards, a good friend who was there and who actually defended this person, took the time to point out to me that I was better than that. She was right. I just wish I had realized it before. Sure it was in a private Facebook group but I can’t take back what I did and naming names does me or this blog post no good, but there’s a valuable lesson here. It’s one in which I’ve told companies about and probably fuels a lot of their trepidation of social media engagement.

Once it’s out there, it’s out there for everyone to see. It’s in ink not pencil

Sometimes, the hardest lessons are the ones you have to experience first hand. The NFL players who tweeted about Jay Cutler probably wish they could take back what they said, and so do I. It’s not part of what I am about. I can do better. I apologize. Like I said, there are no take backs in social media.

The Implied Participation of Social Media

If you’re new to social media marketing, you might feel like you’re a little late to the game. In a sense, if you are new, you are a little late. However, fear not, there are some who have actually been slogging through social media so long without any discernible results that they might as well have started yesterday. What is the reality? There is not much of a difference between you and them.

Two questions come to mind however. Why in 2011 have some waited this long to do anything with social media? And why does mediocrity prevail for those marketers that have been doing it awhile? For the novice and the advanced user, the similarities abound. Both feel the world of social media is moving incredibly fast. Too fast it seems. It’s why the beginners have waited and it’s a great excuse for those marketers that have been coming up short.  In fact the excuses might look something like this: I won’t be able to keep up, there’s no time, why bother, why continue, it doesn’t work, our customers don’t use it, there is no point, what’s the point? Or gasp, you can’t measure it and there’s no ROI! The collective belief being that maybe, just maybe, social media is temporary.

In either camp you could almost say that you’re waiting for things to become so simplified that participation will be as implied as Google’s home page. Enter a word, click a button, get a result. Good luck with that.

Funny thing though, it really doesn’t matter what your background is in 2011. It’s implied that you’re either in a social network and or you know what to do once you’re in a social network. Wow, that’s terribly assumptive isn’t it?

In today’s Uber connected world it’s easy to be intimidated or influenced into participation in social media just based on the notion that a) Facebook has almost 600 million active users and you need to tap into that or b) Your customers are on Facebook and Twitter and you’re not. You feel you must be there. Whether kicking and scratching or willingly, you’re being pulled into the vortex of social media-whether you know what you’re doing or not.

Did you know that when you go to Google’s search page and type in, “How do I use…” that one of the first results that show up in the search drop down box is, “How do I use Twitter and Facebook?” Which means that the phenomena of social networks has definitely peaked our collective interest as marketers and yet we are still not quite sure how to us social to sell or market our stuff-What do we do? How do we use it? How does it work?

Unfortunately there is not enough room here to really answer the above questions at length, but those types of questions are still coming from two familiar groups of people. That’s right, the novices and the advanced users, and all groups in between. The queries are emanating just as much from the small business owner wearing the marketing hat as the CMO charged with managing the Fortune 100. Though the surface level questions still revolve pretty heavily around the how’s and the why’s-The deeper question still might be-Why is there still a big disconnect or gap in social media adoption in 2011?

 

 

You might not think there is a gap because you might be the atypical user both from a marketing perspective and a consumer level. In fact some of you might think that things are evolving at a pretty normal pace- and they are, for you; but there are still a lot of segments of our society and business world that are lagging behind in social media knowledge, usage, experience, and adoption. Why is that?

Culture and cultures.  All of your customers are wired differently. Not all of them are always sitting in front of computers tweeting, downloading coupons, friending brands and buying stuff through Groupon and Livingsocial. Thus the types of usage, consumers, and networks that abound are as diverse as the people that live in one square block in SoHo.. What makes us different makes us unique. What makes this world the way it is? Our personalities, our backgrounds, our heritage, our family, our tribes…Our cultures. Social media and social networks are no different, they are just online digital extensions of our offline lives and the spaces that we play and work in.  So why the difficulty in adoption and usage? It’s implied we know what we are doing and what they want. It is assumed we know how to market to “them” because we know how to use social. I say Ha!

Do you remember back in grade school in PE class when it was demanded/expected that everyone would participate in dodge ball or kickball? Was everyone capable of playing at the same level? Did everyone want to play or participate? Did everyone know the rules? In some cases kids were forced to play right? If the option was given to play or not to play, how many would have? Half?  Either the coaches and PE’s teachers assumed everyone knew how to play, didn’t care, or they focused on the one’s that knew how to play. Those that didn’t know how, were left to figure it out as they went. Sound familiar? Just think if they had taken the time to teach, and or learn what they had to work with from the kids in the class!

If we’re to look at today’s social networks, Facebook is THE implied or de facto platform for social media participation and yet, there is nothing that says you’re supposed to have a Fan page for your company or product on Facebook, or that you know what you are doing. But we all drop into the funnel anyway, like lemmings. And yet there’s nothing that says you automatically know how “to be” social with your customers on Facebook either; or that success is guaranteed on Facebook. And that’s part of the problem. Lack of knowledge. The other part is that technology is waiting for users to catch up and users are waiting for technology to slow down, thus a lot of times most marketers are flying blind when it comes to using social media to sell products. They revert back to traditional forms of marketing using social tools and platforms. One way messaging with frequency.

With that said, here are 4 resources to help keep you current in today’s ever changing social sphere.

  • All Facebook http://www.allfacebook.com    –The unofficial Facebook Blog
  • YourVersion http://www.yourversion.com  –YourVersion is a tool for delivering the latest news, blogs, tweets, and videos on content that matters to you, all in one place.
  • TechCrunch http://www.techcrunch.com  –TechCrunch is a real time site profiling startups, reviewing internet products and breaking tech news. I start and end my day with this site.
  • SmartBlog on Social Media http://www.smartblogs.com/socialmedia A blog that daily delivers best practices, case studies & insights on social media marketing. I read it every day.

 

Lastly, In order for social media marketing to truly evolve, participation needs to be more fluid, connectivity less assumptive, and value all inclusive. Until then, the usage and effect of social media in the marketing mix will only be surface level.

The propensity to Repeat in Social Media

It’s not just social media. Create a killer product, expect knock-offs. I used to say that you truly haven’t made it until you have been knocked off. It happens with consumer products, food products, you name it. Imitation is the best form of flattery right? Monopolies in social media? Facebook has an argument, but that’s about it. Everything else is fair game right now.

We’re a demand society. This is the “Consumers of Content” generation.

Networks, apps, aggregators, blogs, microblogs-copy what works, tweak it a little, or not, and see what market share you can pull. Make it just as good as… and release it. Make it better than…and release it. Because social media is “still” new and still growing, the thinking can be that there is always someone new coming to the party that may or may not be reading content for the first time, seeing a site for the first time and using an app for the first time. So everyone has a chance to succeed; but what seperates the real thing, the solid thing or the big dog from the one who just showed up trying to capitalize or catch the big wave? Sometimes money, sometimes nothing. It might just be an issue of WOM, Buzz or SEO and search.

In some cases the noobie or the one coming to the party late has a better chance to get it right. Take what they did and do it better, or just rip it off and call it something different. The noobie has a chance to appeal to the noobie.

From the standpoint of the blogger. How fresh can or could their content be? In social media, is it possible that what they are saying is fresh? Or is it just a fresh coat of paint, lipstick on a pig. Repeat the obvious and give it a fresh name and claim it as your own.

Why does history repeat itself even in social media? How many times can we read the 10 ways to use Twitter for your business? Because we will always be  suckers for bulleted lists. History shows that we love the compelling headline with the notion that what we might read is new, insightful and helps us leverage what we do in the social media. We’re hoping for fresh.

Who’s doing fresh in social media right now? What makes them fresh? What blogger is still a must read in social media? What are we looking for as readers these days in the world of social media? Is it all just about being sucked into another top 10? Can you resist reading a top ten?

How do you Leverage your Personal Data on Facebook?

Sometimes it’s the little things that really can drive a point home. Take for example a small conversation I had-actually it was an exchange of about 2-3 tweets between myself and Adam Cohen of Rosetta that occurred late Friday afternoon. It started with this:

It is a good post in Adweek about how food marketers  are trying a new approach when it comes to winning followers on Facebook by using online coupons and incentives that grow in value as more consumers “like” a brand on Facebook.

It’s sort of a Groupon approach but with a twist.

My tweet back to Adam after reading it was that, “Isn’t that really why people/consumers- fan/friend/like a Co.? Hoping for what they might get on the backend? Not always but..” My point to Adam being that Facebook friending, following, or liking a brand is all predicated not necessarily on brand devotion and loyalty, but more on what might that person “get.”-In the form of an offer, a coupon, a special, some swag, some recognition, some money, a job etc. etc. The “whats in it for me syndrome…”

I’ll like you as long as you kick me some…

There’s nothing wrong with that except when marketers and thought leaders want to paint the consumer following the brand on Facebook as an “Uber brand loyalist”- as something more pure than what I have just mentioned. But leave it to Adam to add a layer of levity to this though:

Great point. A value exchange. One to one. His point, the value of the consumers data in exchange for what you have as a brand. A trust level and brand affinity developed through traditional channels which can now be taken online into Facebook where the relationship can be deepened and enhanced. My value for yours…

In actuality, it’s still a “what’s in it for me” yo type situation but you, the consumer, really have an advantage, you just don’t know it.

Your takeaway? Value what you have as a consumer( your data) and leverage it-understand how important your data is to the brands that you like. How could you leverage your affinity to the brands you like online? Who’s benefiting the most from the brands that you follow or like? Is it a one off for them? For you?

7 Tips for Staying on Top of the Social Wave

Often times you have to step in it to realize you are in it. With social media, you would have to have lived in a cave on an island in the Pacific to not know how ubiquitous it is. It’s permeating every part of our daily lives. With that being said, here are 7 “things” you should be aware of as we go forward in this digital world that can carry you and your company towards Web 3.0.

1) Look for more content to be produced by “others”. This means look  for the rise of the professional content creators masking as citizen journalists. They will blur the lines so much-you won’t know where the value lies. We used to marvel at UGC, but what is it when large organization start to pass their content off as UGC? Think of Wal Mart or Astroturfing. Know the difference between “real” UGC and professional content.

There’s a reason why Twitter is killing Facebook in CTR rates. Marketers are realizing that Twitter is a consumption vehicle for content and thus they are catching on in continuing to push out content- but they realize they must disguise the content in a way that is appealing and doesn’t seem hook ladened.

2) There will be a continued increase in the value of communities but you will also see more splintering of those communities into niches. Face it, we all have a niche, and connecting to those people via an online community, certainly drives a good portion of our searches. Knowing that people are searching for their tribes will help you in your understanding of market segments. Focus on focus-Want to grow your product? Find the niche, it’s there.

3) Mobile will be THE social platform.The global mobile market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2015. What are you waiting for? Your competitors? What are you doing about it? Get serious about mobile.

4) Social data will determine your next move in your future business engagements, don’t ignore it-Social data will be driving consumer engagement.

Companies are mining the social web to build dossiers on you. Information posted publicly on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, forums and other sites is fair game

5) Engagement strategies will be different on every channel because of the data returned from #4. Don’t assume that your social strategies will be the same across all BU’s. Each has it’s own nuance and needs. Be mindful that your social solutions will be different-understand their capabilities and their deliverables.

6) Mitigating loss of control in social media will continue to be underserved and undervalued. What seems to be common is that people don’t do anything from a crisis communication and loss mitigation standpoint until after things hit the fan. Create your social media worst case scenario plan, don’t wait.

7) Search will still rule, but social search will drive future customer engagement. How are you currently addressing the fact that people will be using a mobile device and could be doing searches through their social network of choice for products and service and companies? For starters, think local and then learn how it works.

If there were a way to etch these in pencil, I would do it. Things change so quickly in the digital social media world that nothing is finite and everything is fair game. But as an organization, agency or marketer trying to make heads or tails over what might happen-this is as good a snapshot as any to start from.