The Four Semi-Truths of Social Media

First some quick definitions:

The definition of Nebulous according to Dictionary.com is hazy, vague, indistinct, or confused

Shelf life is the recommendation of time that products can be stored, during which the defined quality of a specified proportion of the goods remains acceptable under expected (or specified) conditions of distribution, storage and display

Depreciation is an expense that reduces the value of an asset as a result of wear and tear, or age. Most assets lose their value over time and must be replaced once the end of their useful life is reached.

Obsolescence is the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order.
Now what if we applied these to the world of social media?

My friend Danny recently sold his Boston Whaler. It was a boat no more than 2 years old and it was in pristine condition. He lost $5,000 on the transaction. His take? The boat depreciated as soon as he bought it. It was cool when he first had it he said, but after awhile, once the “newness” of it had worn off-it then was just an old boat that took up space.

Semi-truth #1: Our infatuation with the next, new, shiny, thing in social media depreciates as soon as we realize that it’s just another engagement, aggregator, application, thingy requiring more time, increased effort, permission to access, another profile creation etc., etc. and yet at the end of the day, delivers not much more than all the others. It’s like Danny’s boat.

——————–

Mike, a friend and a CEO of a cool little boutique ad agency, used to use Twitter, but then claimed that it was too nebulous. (Note I quickly had to run and look up the word nebulous)

His agency has never been doing better, and yet just because he doesn’t use Twitter any longer, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think it has value for him or his clients. To him, Twitter is what Twitter is- But the basic tenets of good business like customer service and doing the job right, go further for him than “some web app”  that takes up too much of his precious client time. fair enough.

Semi-truth #2: The majority of social media applications can indeed be nebulous and though they may have the best of intentions with a cool interface-at the end of the day, they remain nebulous at best with a typical “make money via advertising” as it’s business model, and a primary marketing approach that is dependent on social “coolness” and going viral. Great news! Whether you use social media or not is not going to determine your success in business.

——————–

Remember MySpace? I honestly can’t think of a better definition of social media obsolescence, though there are many to go around. Yes they have had “some UI issues”, but at one point they were THE social network that everyone was talking about. What happened? It still worked and yet people just didn’t or don’t want to use it anymore. The coolness wore off.

Semi-truth #3: What happened to MySpace can happen to any social network. At any point in time, if something better comes along, or if people just get bored with what you are offering, they will leave, and there is really nothing you can do to prevent that, even if it “ain’t broke.”

———————

Some of your social relationships are platform dependent and might not last as long as you think. What is the useful shelf life of a social media generated relationship? What is the sweet spot for a “social relationship” before it plummets into the trough of disillusionment? How long does it last? 6 months? 1 year? Think Dunbar.

Semi-truth #4: Similar to the the shelf life of social networks,  some relationships in social media, though timeless, can be generally shallow and only last as long as both continue to use the application that bridged the engagement in the first place. If one departs, in general the surface like relationship ends. Thus the shelf life of social relationships is inversely proportional to a) Depth of engagement  b) Type of platform and c) One got what one needed.

——————-

Isn’t it interesting how shelf life, obsolescence, depreciation and nebulous can be so closely linked and aligned to the world of social media? It’s partly what makes social media great on the one hand, and so maddening on the other. It moves at the speed of sound and yet it’s innate fickleness is determined primarily by it’s  makers and it’s users and not much else. Yes new technology may change behavior, but behavior can change or determine the path of technology.

5 Reasons Why Social Media is so Explosive

Given that we have been punked by the dry erase girl it has become apparent to me a few things about our new social transparent world and why marketers want to tap it.

  1. We love to share stories where good triumphs over evil
  2. We love to talk and tell others about train wrecks for companies and people
  3. We can be easily punked
  4. We love watching video-and then sharing it-it takes no effort, none. zip. zilch.zero.
  5. We are suckers for top ten lists

I know there are more, but these were the first 5 that came to mind..

Should Your Social Networks Mingle?

A lot of the apps and web services that come across the desk lately have to do with consolidation and aggregation. In fact, back in April there was a pretty good post in Social Media Today on 7 social media aggregation tools that you should use that caught my eye. I went through the list and I was familiar with 4 of them. But there’s a larger point I want to make here.

Actually 2 points.

Point #1. I’m going to use Yoono as my first example. Yoono connects you to your social networks and messengers. It unifies your status updates into a single stream of information and lets you update your status across all your social networks at once. Social media sites that are currently supported include, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and Flickr. Messenger services are available through Google Talk, AIM, Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.

But what if each network has specific audiences? i.e. Facebook is family and friends. Twitter is your peer network. Linkedin is a business networking network and Live Messenger is say for your customers or something like that. My networks are somewhat broken out like that. I don’t want them to overlap. I don’t want my Facebook friends to receive my Twitter updates. I don’t want to pollute, so to speak, my otherwise “clean” Linkedin network with my Twitter updates. Occasionally I add the #li hashtag to a tweet, but otherwise I keep them separate.

You might be asking why I keep them autonomous but my simplest of reasons is that my networks are not all “business” related and conversely not all are intimate and or personal. Consider it strategic but it works for me. Different networks, different messages.

Point #2.  There’s an assumption that we need consolidation and aggregation. I would say yes and no. I definitely think that having universal logins is heading in the right direction but there is one issue that I have with that. Profiles matter but they almost have to be a bit different for each network. People sometimes need to push out a different yet more effective profile per each network. Linkedin vs. Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Myspace. Different niches, different networks, different profiles.

Consolidation yes aggregation maybe.

More and more we are becoming members of more networks. That won’t be changing. I’m not sure there is an answer for posting updates that populate across all networks in which your networks understand the meaning. I may be looking at this too hard from a business standpoint and that’s OK. But the bigger picture is that consolidating our social networking effort is what we all want because we’re all hell bent on laziness or efficiency-take your pick. It’s just that  aggregating or mingling them with any type of contextual adaptive effectiveness might be trickier.

If You Could Use Only One Social Media Solution, Which Would It Be?

Given that most of us claim to be too busy to do anything anymore-and it is somewhat true. Traipsing in and bellowing to anyone who will listen, that the tranformative nature of social media will change the way you do business for the better, is a lofty claim.

Let’s do a hypothetical. What if you could only use one “social solution”? Which would you use? and why would you use it? Let’s say you’re a consultant, which social media solution would you suggest and why? Which one is going to have the largest impact on your company? On your business? For your client? What if you’re boss said, “Pick one”, and given that that’s  a minor miracle he said that-which will give you the firm footing to do more later on down the line? The most impact? Results?

This is kind of important for a number of reasons-not the least of being that some solutions are just not a good fit for some types of organizations.  The reasons could be limited resources, limited time, money or whatever-but you just don’t go and jam a generic social solution into every company just because they want one. You’re going to set yourself up to fail if you do that.

Just because a company can set up a Facebook fan page for example- does that mean that it will give them the biggest bang for their efforts? Maybe, maybe not. What is going to give them the biggest return, the biggest impact? You can only choose one.

Let’s short list 11 high level social media solutions and tools right now.

Each of the above have specific bells and whistles that allow you to do certain things.  Remind me again, what’s the goal of social media? To have conversations? To sell stuff? To grow the business? To enrich Customer service? HR? Competitive intelligence? PR? Collaboration? Which one could do all of those?  I got a better idea. Maybe you should just concentrate on one  specific social “thing” that will make your organization better?

Ahhhh haaaaa…  That’s it! Which one can do one thing that can make your organization better at what they do? You don’t need to try or “do” every social media solution to be successful. Just one-Doing one thing really, really well, will work.

Internal/External buy-in to social media is tougher than you think

Interesting how the intersection of what I’m thinking coincides with what others are too. Take for example the Forrester “social maturity” survey which wants to know which companies are ahead of the curve in implementing social technologies for both external use (i.e., for customers/consumers) and/or internal use (i.e., for employees/partners)?

I had been thinking pretty hard lately that the more that I talk to various companies of various sizes one thing is becoming quite clear. My passion and understanding of the power of social is not theirs. They may want to be part of the conversation but it’s not the same as mine, or the same for other similar organizations or competitors.

It’s all over the board.

Part of the reality is that companies want to be like their competition, or may just want to tap into the stream, but they want to do it on a 9-5 basis say maybe 3 times a week. The rub is, they want to enjoy all that socialness has to offer externally but are not as committed as they need to be internally. Which begs the question.

What level of buy-in and to what extent of buy-in internally do you need with social media in order to be successful externally?

Forrester is dead on in where they are going with this. It is clear that many companies have made some major strides in planning and organizing for the use of social technologies. But one of the primary questions we know they are asking is “where does my company stack up  compared to my peers and competitors in the use of social media-both externally and internally?” It’s natural to want to know how you stack up.

Is it a chicken vs. egg thing? Internal or external? Can you do one without the other? Are you doing one and not the other? Are you doing anything? Or do you still think it’s a fad? Take the Forrester Survey

The “other” types of social media users

This is such a transcendent time isn’t it? I’ve been thinking a lot about how people use social networks and why. We have talked a lot about digital natives, immigrants, early adopters, lurkers and what not, but there is another group I’ve been tinkering with that I can easily add to the mix.

Joiners

The newbie in social media might think, and somewhat accurately I might add, that it’s easy to just dive right into social and worry about the big stuff later. True, you can, but I like to categorize those people as the one’s who leap before looking. They’ll join any and all social networks that they can. By the time they stop to worry about the little things, there will be bigger stuff on top of the big stuff and they’ll gravitate towards that.

Blindfliers

Then there are those that might look before leaping but don’t really know where they are landing. They are flying blind into social media. They’re excited. They’re not even taking the time to learn, but that’s not really a concern. They’re just happy to be here. They learned just enough to be dangerous. Like how to upload and share photos. They are a critical component to the success of social media-they will share the coolness of it all with others.

LostLikers

Some do manage to land after leaping but then they don’t know where they are. Those are the one’s who join a social network without really vetting the users of that group. It just seemed like a cool network to join; Or a cool tool to use, or a good idea at the time. They created a profile and started to interact before realizing that this group is not really for them. There are a lot of people that fall into this category. The good news? They liked their initial experience. Eventually there will be a tribe for all of them.

Hopscotchers

Still others leap and never land-To me those people are not really into it for the right reasons; they are the marketers, agencies, advertisers and companies that are trying to capitalize on all the buzz that they’re hearing. They will create a profile, add a link, and not much more; they’ll think that’s sufficient to get it done- -they’ll soon move on to the new shiny thing. Those people will shortly be touting how brilliant and cool Augmented Reality is.

Tirekickers

There is of course those that might land but they don’t really care if they do-they are the ones who will test drive, use the networks a bit and move on, declaring that social networks don’t work. They don’t give it a chance. They are not really engaging-or don’t understand the level of engagement needed to be successful. Those are the Tirekickers. They might be useful as beta testers and not much more. If they decided to stay around longer than a month.

What other types of users are there that I could add to this?

Social networks are redefining what a friend or a relationship really is

This is a post where I am right but so is Brian…

So yesterday I was talking via Twitter with Brian Dresher, the manager of  social media at USA Today. The discussion brought on by this tweet/thought:

Brian followed that thought up with mentioning that “following” someone pre-Twitter meant something more akin to stalking than it did to something more related to complimentary. You got that right.

There was a bit more to the conversation but here’s the point that I want to get across- and I’m fairly certain that you would agree with me. If you don’t, that’s OK, these thoughts are my own.

Like it or not, Social networking is redefining terms of “social endearment.”

It’s forever changing the etymology of commonly used words; and I would say easily within a few years it will completely alter their understanding and perception as younger generations continue to evolve as digitals’  new natives.

Here are the prime and most glaring examples.

  • Friend-Means absolutely nothing anymore. All it means is that we have allowed the other into our networks, or vice-versa. Soon we will have to qualify what kind of friend you or they actually are.
  • Follow-At its core, to follow would mean to come or go after; proceed behind; go in a straight or obvious course. There is nothing in the social networking world that resembles that definition. But as it stands now, if I were to tell you that I follow him or her-there still might be a pregnant pause. That too will soon change.
  • Like-I don’t even know where to begin.
  • Relationship-the definition of the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship would seem to closely align itself with today’s social networks. However, some now think that relationships can be built on the thinnest of determinants. Which lead to this next tweet from me:

It took Brian’s next tweet to add the proper context to all of this.

He’s right. I didn’t know Brian before all this social networking “stuff” started and now we have a casual business relationship because of it. It has become enhanced because of it. We have met and talked at a conference, and later this summer he is going to host a Social Media Tweetchat for us. Thanks to the power of social networks.

Is there a fallout to all of this? No not really. We’re just adding layers to the complexity that is online communication.  In order to get to or take a relationship to the next level, They’ll still have to be consummated at some point offline. Right? Maybe not? Maybe these new layers allow for less physical/face to face interactions?

Maybe not.

*I know there were a ton of other “social” words that don’t mean the same thing as they used to that I did not mention. I’ll leave that up to you guys. Anyone want to start a wiki?

10 social media sites, blogs and links you might have missed

I haven’t done a post on stuff I’ve saved lately, and I love when others share links, articles and sites with me, so here’s a few that I’ve accumulated.

I’ve been writing and talking a lot about Facebook and children and parents lately, and the site Togetherville is at least a step in some direction. I don’t know if it’s the answer but at least someone is doing something.

I came across Tlists when I showed up on one of it’s lists of “The most listed Tweeters on 921 lists about Social Media”. Find the best tweeters on any topic.

When I participated in this innovative Twitter project by Toby Bloomberg is an incredibly smart marketer out of Atlanta, I had no idea she would make it into an ebook, but it’s a great read and was a great idea! – Social Media Marketing GPS: A New Media Roadmap For Creating A Social Media Strategy

What are the top brands on Facebook? What might be a better question is, Are you surprised at who you see on this list? Fan Page List has all the data.

From one of our weekly Tweetchats hosted by JD Lasica on Facebook and Privacy, this link was shared: Facebook Backlash Sparks Transparency Tools which has a couple of really good tools in the article.

While we’re at, have a look at Openbook

I can’t say it any better than this: Where DIY meets WTF..

Turn an email address into a social profile with Flowtown

This has some potential now that Ning has constructed pay walls; Add a forum or social network to your blog with BlogFrog

This last post was so dead on and had me laughing and nodding my head all in the same breath. 8 websites you need to stop building

Got any I might have missed?

Children and Facebook-15 links to Help Parents Learn

This is where my head is at right now. I’m listening to the pushback from Facebook users and parents who are concerned about Privacy. I’m compiling an exhaustive list of blog posts and articles related to Facebook, children, and privacy and how it impacts all of us.

Stay tuned for the wiki. In the meantime, here are 15 links to posts that address the issues that dominate not only my thoughts and hopes to see something done about Facebook’s complete disdain for its users; but also what keeps parents up at night… Some of the links here are to not only open parents eyes to what they are forced to deal with right now, but also in “how” to deal with it. I hope it helps.

Facebook: Children evade social websites’ age limits

Social media create new bullying issues for schools; Collier forum set for Monday

Too young for social networking?

Facebook, states set bullying, predator safeguards

How can parents access their children Facebook account

What is Facebook Doing to Protect Children from Sexual Predators?

Facebook ‘fails to protect children’

How To Monitor Children On Facebook

Should you be Facebook friends with your children?

Facebook urged to add ‘panic button’ for children

Facebook May Share User Data With External Sites Automatically

The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

NYU Students Start Privacy-Minded Social Media Site

Social Media Parenting: Raising the Digital Generation

Why Facebook Can’t Be Trusted

On Trust and Children in Social Networks

So I’m at my 12 year old daughter’s softball game last Friday night and as the game is concluding I reach for my cellphone and I see a text from my wife it reads:

Your daughter is on Facebook”?

I text back

She better not be”.

As I’m waiting for her to emerge from the dugout, I decide to call my wife who is in Ohio for the weekend for my nephew’s first communion. The first words out of her mouth are that her sister Terry tried to “Friend” my daughter on Facebook. I was shocked and stunned. But there were some legit reasons why. Here’s 4 of them.

1) Not 2 weeks prior to this happening, I was on television and in front of a live audience, as well as members of the school board, explaining why I did not see the point in children (freshman to sophomores on down) using Facebook, let alone a social network at all. They’re too young.

2) I had explained to those that attended, how important it was to monitor your childrens online activities.

3) I had outlined how important it was, to explain the implications of privacy and what can happen when you are “out” there to your children.

4) My daughter saw the event on television

Apparently I suck at drinking my own koolaid. I did not do a good enough job of monitoring my child’s online activities. I took for granted that my straight A’s student, great athlete, daughter would never violate the trust that I thought we had. She had asked previously if she could get a Facebook account and I said no and I explained why.

Here’s the cautionary tale.

  • First off, I felt completely betrayed by my daughter,
  • Facebook has no idea of the challenges that parents face.
  • Even “good” kids will do what their ‘friends” tell them to do and what their parents tell them not to.
  • My daughter knew she wasn’t supposed to be on, but her friends told her to set up an account.
  • As smart as my daughter thinks she is, and yes she is,  she still set the account up wrong, but luckily she had not put “that much” info out there.
  • There were dozens of other “friends” waiting for her to “friend” them back. Dozens.
  • Those other “friends”, were no older than 13, but the majority were younger than 13. That means that they worked around the so-called age limit to join Facebook.
  • Children have no clue what privacy settings are and how to set them up on Facebook.

So what’s my point? I supposedly was monitoring my daughter’s online activities. I live, eat, breath and sleep this social media stuff, and yet she did it while my wife and I were down the street trying to hit tennis balls.

The parents of the others that I saw on there? Chances are, they do not live, eat and breathe social media. I bet if I were to at least look at the privacy settings of those accounts, 90% of them would be wide open. That’s a problem. One of many.

As social networks and mobile phones continue to evolve, and as the age of innocence continues to evaporate, and entry into owning a phone continues to be lowered-issues about content, behavior, ignorance, and privacy on social networks are going to continue to escalate and magnify. Take it from me, or maybe not…