Social Media – just a way of killing time

Killing-timeA couple of years ago the following question was posted on the Who’s Who in Events LinkedIn group.

Is Social Media just used to kill time and find out what old colleagues are up to or does anyone, other than social media consultants, get business out of it?

While social media, and technology in general are now fully embedded in the event marketing mix, it is worth remembering that there are still a significant number of people who view it with a degree of scepticism. Following numerous stories (given much larger audiences thanks to online and social media) of data leakages and inappropriate sharing, many are much more cautious about what they put into the public domain.

Social media is a great enabler of the creation of a continuous dialogue between like-minded people which can be capitalised on to create really great live events that the attendees truly value. When many people think of social media they are just considering Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but these are really just the juggernauts that are educating the masses in the capabilities of what social media can do.

Technology now exists that enables you to take the capabilities and structure of social media and use it to create your own network, drawing in your current attendees, other interested individuals and partner organisations. By providing them with an open and collaborative environment you can understand what it is that motivates and concerns them, and then you can deliver business services and events that match these needs.

The organisations that are currently doing this successfully are incredibly diverse: from Cancer Centers who want to know how their patients select care at their center and what they want to receive in return; to AFOLs (adult followers of Lego); and then on to large technology organisations who were creating an event for their users based on what they thought were the issues but when they stopped and listened they discovered that there were other more pressing topics that needed to be addressed.

Social media is no longer just a useful part of an event or business marketing campaign, it is the linchpin of an event or business marketing campaign. Organisers and organisations that stop shouting and interrupting (outbound marketing) and start listening and responding (inbound marketing) will be the winners in a world that has been transformed.

The answer, therefore, to our original sceptics question is:

If you are just an observer within Social Media then all you will ever be able to do is kill time and find out what old colleagues are up.  But if you use it effectively and professionally you will definitely get business out of it.

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A Consensus of Subjectivity…

…which is another way of saying Birds of a feather flock together and goes some way to explaining why social networking is such a success, although only for some.

Jeremy Bullmore used the term in 1998 in the context of shared perception of brand personality; the premise being that each and every one of many millions of people gathers a set of feelings that are to some extent autonomous but which further research shows to be closely related, i.e. we like to think we are taking unique decisions for ourselves, but in actual fact we often make them in the context of wanting to be part of a group.  It isn’t much fun being out there on your own.

Back in the dark ages of videotape, why did VHS succeed when BetaMax did not when the latter was universally acknowledged to be the better platform?  When faced with a decision, the consumer went with the crowd.  Similarly, why has LinkedIn grown exponentially while other similar business networks haven’t been able to tap into the same groundswell?  And Facebook wasn’t the first social networking site, so how come it is now almost the biggest community on the planet?

There is, perhaps, a single defining factor.  The consensus on the examples above is that the winners took time to listen to their users and potential users. They created entry points which were attractive, laid out their wares, watched to see how their consumers behaved and tweaked their offering accordingly, and keep on tweaking it (although in VHS’s case a seismic shift in technology eventually put paid to their dominance) to make it less and less attractive to go elsewhere.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes should take note.  There isn’t a marketing text book, essay or lecture today that isn’t trying to hammer home the message of listening:

Listening+action=success

How you and your organisation do this is up to you.  But do it you must.  And the first step has to be that you engage your clients, customers, partners and potential audience in a conversation where you can hear what they are saying about you, your products, your competitors, your competitors products etc. etc.  You need to find where they are having these conversations and join in, you need to be part of the People-Driven Economy which exists in social networks because if you aren’t someone else who does what you do is.

The choice is no longer whether or not you and your organisation embrace social media, the choice is how successfully you do it.

Mark Zuckerberg is wrong…

Two personalities

“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or coworkers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” he says. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” 

Well this might be OK for Mark, for whom it would appear that work is life because he seems to eat, breathe, sleep Facebook and has done ever since his college days.  So you could possibly predict that his friends are his colleagues are his family…

But I would suggest that he is the exception rather than the rule.  I don’t know many people (with any common sense) who would want their clients, patients, pupils etc. to see what they get up to on a drunken stag weekend, but who do want to have an active professional profile on a networking site such as LinkedIn.

Like many people I know, I’m careful who my friends are on Facebook and I use the privacy settings to ensure that only the people I really, truly want to share the minutiae of my daily life with can see it.  My kids are cute (honest) but that doesn’t mean someone I met at a conference last week wants to hear about their achievements and frankly the antics of one of my hounds would put anyone off dog ownership for life.

Mark’s mistake is that he has fallen into the ‘one-size-fits-all’ trap.  Retailers realised some time ago that if you have a 28cm waist then you don’t automatically have a 28cm inside leg measurement and began providing options accordingly.  Social networks are just the same.

While we all want to ‘belong’, hence our desire to join networks as an extension of what we do ‘live’, we aren’t looking for a single ‘tribe’ that fulfils most of our needs.  Modern technology has given us the opportunity to select our own very special group of ‘tribes’ where we can indulge our interests and feel part of something bigger than ourselves.  Membership of each of these groups is not mutually exclusive, nor do we need to share (or confess) our interests to others who might be judgemental or critical.

By insisting that individuals need to be ‘open’, Mark is also being incredibly naive.  For people who work in the criminal justice system, health service, armed forces, teaching, social services or even the volutary sector an entirely open network would mean that they could not participate for fear of compromising their professionalism, opening themselves and their families to abuse and intimidation and in some very extreme cases, physical danger.  But why shouldn’t these individuals be able to link with their families and friends online?

Creating a balance between work and life is one of the most important cultural shifts in the developed world.  The ability to separate a work persona from a personal one is a fundamental part of this and is something that the founder of Facebook needs to understand.

hellen @missioncontrol

Killing time…

The following question was posted today on the Who’s Who in Events LinkedIn group and it gives some food for thought.

Is Social Media just used to kill time and find out what old colleagues are up to or does anyone, other than social media consultants, get business out of it?

What is most interesting about the post is that it illustrates how much work is ahead of us before the marketing revolution that is social networking has filtered down to all areas of business.

While social media is transformational, the motivation behind it is not revolutionary in that it simply taps into our most basic human instinct to engage and connect.  It enables the creation of a continuous dialogue between like-minded people which in the live arena can be capitalised on to create events that the attendees truly value.

When many people think of social media they are just considering Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but these are really just the juggernauts that are educating the masses in the capabilities of what social media can do.

Imagine what you can do if you extract the technology of social media, using it to create your own network, drawing in your current attendees, other interested individuals and partner organisations. By providing them with an open and collaborative environment you will be able to understand what it is that motivates and concerns them, and then you can deliver business services and events that match these needs.

The organisations that are currently doing this successfully are incredibly diverse: from Cancer Centers who want to know how their patients select care at their center and what they want to receive while undergoing treatment; to AFOLs (adult followers of Lego); and then on to large technology organisations who were creating an event for their users based on what they thought were the issues but when they stopped and listened they discovered that there were other more pressing topics that needed to be addressed.

Social media is no longer just a useful part of an event or business marketing campaign, it is the linchpin of an event or business marketing campaign. Organisers and organisations that stop shouting and interrupting (outbound marketing) and start listening and responding (inbound marketing) will be the winners in a world that has, despite what the ostrichs may be thinking, already altered beyond all recognition.

hellen @missioncontrol